Well, why not? It’s not as if Donald Trump hasn’t prepared for this moment. Trump not only compiled and published a list of nominees during his campaign, he re-upped and added to the list just a couple of weeks ago to put pressure on Joe Biden to do the same. The only thing Trump needs to do is to call his nominees for a quick phone interview and prepare the press release.
But when will Trump announce his choice? Kayleigh McEnany said earlier today that it will “very likely” come by tomorrow:
Big week ahead. McEnany said this morning pick will “very likely” come before Wednesday https://t.co/A5oRCwfFuu
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) September 21, 2020
Of course, McEnany also used that to put pressure on Biden to again name his likely SCOTUS picks, too. On Saturday’s Fox & Friends, McEnany offered praise for the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and then chided Biden over his lack of transparency:
KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well look the former Vice President and all due respect, instead of telling the current president what to do, he needs to tell voters where he stands. We don’t know who is on his Supreme Court list. We don’t know what kind of justices he would nominate.
We know very squarely; this president’s been very transparent, putting forward two lists as to exactly — not just what his justices would look like but what their names would be. This is paramount importance to the American voters. This is now a linchpin issue of this election.
And Joe Biden, where do you stand? What do your justices look like? Do they believe in the Constitution? Do they abide by the Constitution? Do they believe in the plain words of a statute? He needs to answer those questions before telling President Trump exactly how to move forward.
Put up or shut up, in other words, but it’s not quite that easy. For one thing, Ruth Bader Ginsburg hasn’t even had a funeral yet, and likely won’t for a few days. There are already plans to have her lie in repose at the Supreme Court, as is customary when a justice passes away, and that would be for two days. After that, her funeral and burial would take place at Arlington, which means that we’re looking at the end of the week before all of the due respect gets paid to Ginsburg. If Trump steps on that to name an appointee, there might be a political cost for a distasteful distraction from the official mourning over Ginsburg’s death.
That’s exactly why Trump didn’t let McEnany’s comment stand for long:
Trump on Fox. Says he will likely announce his nominee "on Friday or Saturday." Says they "should wait until services are over" for Ginsburg"
— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) September 21, 2020
A wise choice, but not one that lacks its own complications. It’s not like Trump and Senate Republicans have a large amount of time on their hands before November. Trump told Fox that “we have a lot of time,” but that’s not really true. A few commentators noted that previous jurists had been nominated, vetted, and confirmed within fewer days than we have left before November 3, but none of those took place in the weeks before an election. Senators will have a limited legislative calendar as they go home to campaign, and that means much less time to for the process to work.
The Senate Judiciary Committee process alone will be a big problem:
First, it conducts an investigation into the nominee’s background. This process can take 30 to 45 days, but it’s easy to imagine it going a lot faster.
Second, the committee holds a public hearing, in which the nominee is questioned and may give testimony about everything from her judicial philosophy to her stand on abortion. This may give voters a chance to see the Democratic vice presidential nominee, Kamala Harris, who also serves on the Judiciary Committee, display her prosecutorial skills during questioning of the nominee.
Finally, the committee will report its recommendation to the full Senate as either favorable, negative, or no recommendation. …
Once the public hearings have concluded, if the Democrats want to buy time, they can delay the committee vote for a week. But after that, it’s on to the main floor of the Senate.
After that, Democrats can’t stop the process to a floor vote, but they can insist on the full 30 hours of debate. Mitch McConnell can hold the session open continuously to get it done in a day and a half, as long as he can keep a constant quorum in the chamber, but that’s still a day and a half after any other dilatory tactics Democrats attempt in the meantime. And all of this assumes that Trump and McConnell can keep at least 50 Senate Republicans on board throughout this process.
At best, it’s going to be a tight squeeze, which is likely why McEnany jumped the gun this morning by promising an almost immediate announcement. Waiting until the end of the week narrows the window, but it’s a tactical patience that’s required to give cover to the handful of Senate Republicans who might quaver if this process starts looking disrespectful of Ginsburg.