What Ginsburg's death could mean for 2020 and the Court

Ginsburg’s death comes even closer to the 2020 election — 46 days away. In all of American history, we have had only two Supreme Court vacancies closer to Election Day than we have now. In both instances, the incumbent president won reelection and nominated a replacement shortly after Election Day. (In terms of the actual confirmation, one was confirmed in December, one in March.) So by historical standards — and, notably, McConnell’s own previous standard — Trump would not nominate anyone unless he won a second term in November, since the election is less than two months away…

It would be unusually fast to finish the entire confirmation process in less than 46 days, the time left before the Nov. 3 election. (The average confirmation process since the Harry Truman administration has lasted 50 days.) That doesn’t mean there isn’t enough time for Trump to confirm a new justice, but it would be on the fast side.

Nevertheless, it’s possible that sometime in October, a judge has been nominated and perhaps confirmation hearings are taking place, right on the eve of the election. This creates the possibility that Trump loses the election and perhaps Republicans lose control of the Senate, but the lame duck president and some senators who have lost reelection put a justice on the Supreme Court — a move that will enrage Democrats. Alternatively, Trump could win the election and see a new justice appointed before he even begins his second term.