The Supreme Court opened a new term Monday with Republicans on the cusp of realizing a dream 50 years in the making: a solid conservative majority that might roll back abortion rights, expand gun rights and shrink the power of government.
Eight justices are getting back to work at a most unusual, politically fraught moment in American history. They’re still mourning the death of their colleague Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the leader of the court’s liberal wing. They’re working in the midst of a pandemic that has forced the court to drastically change the way it conducts business. And the presidential election is less than a month away.
President Donald Trump’s nominee for Ginsburg’s seat, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, could be on the bench in time for one of the term’s biggest cases, post-Election Day arguments in the latest Republican bid to strike down the Affordable Care Act, which provides more than 20 million people with health insurance.
Barrett’s confirmation would cement a 6-3 conservative majority and diminish Chief Justice John Roberts’ ability to moderate the court’s decisions. That’s because conservatives would have five votes even in cases where Roberts might side with the remaining three liberal justices.
The term is so far short on high-profile cases, but that could change quickly because of the prospect of court involvement in lawsuits related to the election. Trump has said he wants Barrett in place soon so that she could be among nine justices, including his other appointees Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, who weigh in on any voting cases. Four years ago, Republicans were content to leave a Supreme Court seat open through the election, even if it meant having an eight-justice court decide any election challenges.
With files from the Associated Press
Jordan Rubin, reporter for Bloomberg Law and co-host of Bloomberg Law’s podcast “Cases and Controversies”; he tweets @Jordan_S_Rubin