Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a trailblazer. She was an icon. The legend known as the “Notorious RBG.” And to me, she was a role model and a friend. Her sharp legal mind, her compassion, and her fighting spirit pried open doors for millions of women, including myself.
I remember when I was a young mother and I was at Rutgers, trying something as seemingly outlandish as going to law school. It was a really lonely undertaking. But Ruth was an example of a woman who made it, and even better, a woman who was fighting for other women. Ruth had just left the faculty to teach at Columbia Law School when I got to Rutgers, but the women — and the men — all knew her. We knew she was going to change the world. And she did.
Ruth is gone and I will miss her. But she’s leaving behind millions of fighters who will use their grief and their despair as fuel to protect her legacy and honor her memory by fighting for the things she worked for: A woman’s right to make decisions about her own body. Health care for millions of Americans. Dreamers who have made a home here. Voting rights. LGBTQ rights. Workers’ rights. Racial and economic justice. Our democracy. The list goes on. Justice Ginsburg left us with our marching orders: no Supreme Court confirmation until the next president is inaugurated.
We must honor Ruth’s “fervent wish.” If we don’t, we risk our rights being snatched away by another right-wing lurch of the Supreme Court. We know exactly what Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, is being picked to do: complete a decades-long assault on our judiciary by billionaires, giant corporations, and right-wing extremists to tilt the courts in their favor and against everyone else.
The list of what is at stake if Republicans get their way is truly staggering. But let me give just one example that will have a massive impact on tens of millions of Americans. The Supreme Court will hear arguments just days after the election on whether the Affordable Care Act should be overturned. If Justice Ginsburg is replaced with a Mitch McConnell-Donald Trump choice, the five-four decision that saved health care will be overturned. And here’s what that would mean: Insurance companies will be allowed to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. Insurance companies will be able to charge women more simply because they are women. Medicaid will be gutted. And if you are one of the millions of Americans who has had Covid-19 and survived? Covid could become your pre-existing condition, and insurance companies will be able to deny coverage because of it.
In 2016, Sen. McConnell and his Republican henchmen locked arms and insisted there could be no confirmation until after the next president had been elected and sworn in. But in 2020, on the very same night that Justice Ginsburg passed, Mitch McConnell announced that he and Donald Trump would move immediately to name a new Supreme Court justice, despite the fact that there were only 46 days before the election and voting was already under way across the country. This kind of sleazy double-dealing is the last gasp of a desperate party that is undemocratically overrepresented in Congress and in the halls of power across our country. The last gasp of a corrupt Republican leadership, numb to its own hypocrisy, that doesn’t reflect the views of the majority of Americans or the values that we hold dear. The last gasp of a right-wing, billionaire-fueled party that wants to hold onto power a little longer in order to impose its extremist agenda on the entire country.
As I recently said on the Senate floor, if Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans ram this nomination through, it is our duty to explore every option we have to restore the court’s credibility and integrity. Every option to expand our democracy, not shrink it. Every option to ensure that a working single parent and a millionaire corporate executive have equal justice in our courts. And every option to ensure that all Americans are represented in our institutions.
If this feels personal, that’s because it is. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a personal hero for me and for millions of other women. She was a woman who never let any man silence her. The most fitting tribute to her is to refuse to be silenced and to stop Donald Trump and Senate Republicans from stealing her Supreme Court seat.