hen asked at what point there would be enough women on the nine-member US Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg replied: “When there are nine.” An all-female Supreme Court? Why not, she asked. “Nine men was a satisfactory number until 1981.”
The death of Justice Ginsburg is of immediate political significance because it gives Donald Trump the chance to rush through the nomination of a conservative judge, which would entrench the conservative majority on the Supreme Court, turning a five-to-four majority into a six-to-three one.
Already, Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate majority leader, has reversed his position from when Antonin Scalia died just before the 2016 election. Then, he said: “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.” Now, he says precisely the opposite, stripping away another layer from the fiction that US legal appointments are anything other than intensely party-political.