Iowa Senators at Center of Debate over Justice Replacement

Written by Theresa Rose on September 19, 2020

Grassley and Ernst at center of debate over replacing Ginsburg

The death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has thrust Iowa’s U.S. Senators — both Republicans — into the spotlight. The Senate’s Republican leader tonight said there will be a vote this year on the person President Trump nominates to replace Ginsburg.

Earlier this summer, Senator Chuck Grassley said if there were a vacancy on the court, he would not recommend holding a committee hearing on a nominee. That would follow what happened in 2016. Grassley was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time and did not hold a hearing for President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee.

Senator Joni Ernst, who recently became a member of the Judiciary Committee, said in July the Republican-led senate should proceed with hearings if a vacancy occurred in 2020, even if President Trump loses the election.

Friday night, shortly after Ginsburg’s death was announced, Ernst’s 2020 re-election campaign sent an email with the subject line that said, “BREAKING: The future of the Supreme Court is on the line.” It sought donations to preserve what the email referred to as “Conservative values and Constitutional rights.” Ernst a few hours later issued a written statement saying the email “never should have gone out” and “though I never saw it, it was sent out under my name and I take responsibility. Tonight, my prayers are with the family of Justice Ginsburg.”

Ernst and many Iowa politicians, of both political parties, issued written statements Friday evening referring to Ginsburg as an icon. Grassley, who voted back in 1993 to confirm Ginsburg to the court, called her a “trailblazer” who “has left a remarkable imprint on our nation.” Republican Governor Kim Reynolds said Ginsburg’s life of service “deserves the utmost respect and admiration.”

Congresswoman Cindy Axne, a Democrat from West Des Moines, said Ginsburg was “a champion of progress and women’s rights unlike any other in our nation’s history.” Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, said the country “lost a hero, an icon and inspiration for millions of women and girls.” Congressman Dave Loebsack, a Democrat from Iowa City, said Ginsburg’s “voice will be truly missed.”

Theresa Greenfield, the Democrat challenging Ernst’s bid for a second term in the U.S. Senate, issued a written statement, calling Ginsburg “a tireless champion for civil rights and equality…Let’s work every day to honor her memory.”

Ashley Hinson of Cedar Rapids, the Republican candidate challenging Congresswoman Finkenauer, called Ginsburg a “giant” who “gave every little girl the belief that they, too, could be a supreme court justice.”

Former Congressman David Young of Van Meter, the Republican running against Congresswoman Axne this year, said he “marveled at the personal friendship” Ginsburg shared with the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and added: “We need more friendships like this bridging partisan divides.”