McDaniel: Looming election cases show need for full Supreme Court

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel argued Tuesday that the U.S. Supreme Court needs its full array of nine justices as a series of legal challenges related to state voting laws play out ahead of the Nov. 3 election.

During an interview outside the Michigan Republican Party's headquarters, McDaniel referenced lawsuits filed by Democrats against election laws in multiple states.

"We really feel like a lot of that is going to come to the Supreme Court, and we need nine justices because we can't have a tie," said McDaniel, a Michigan resident.

Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, speaks during a bus tour stop in Lansing on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020.

McDaniel appeared at a bus tour stop in Lansing with supporters of President Donald Trump on Tuesday, 42 days before the Nov. 3 election and four days after the news of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death.

The Republican president has said he intends to nominate a woman to replace the liberal justice by the end of the week. However, Democrats have contended that the winner of the election should get to make the pick. They cite a position that Republican senators took in 2016 to block President Barack Obama's nomination of Judge Merrick Garland.

"This is a pivotal time for our country," U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, has said. "It’s critical that the people of Michigan and all Americans have the opportunity through this November’s election to make their wishes known concerning the future direction of our country."

Some Republican U.S. senators, including Alaska's Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Maine's Sen. Susan Collins, have supported the idea of letting the winner of the election make the nomination. But others including Michigan native and Utah U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, back moving forward with a nomination. Ronna McDaniel is Romney's niece.

"You don't stop governing because there's an election around the corner unless you're a Democrat right now," McDaniel said. "It is critical that we have this Supreme Court fully seated."

The chairwoman cited legal challenges brought by Democratic groups in multiple states. In Michigan — a state Trump won by 10,704 votes in 2016 — Priorities USA filed three lawsuits. Last week, a federal judge blocked a state law that prevented groups from transporting voters to polling locations while upholding another law that prevented "ballot harvesting," or gathering completed absentee ballots from voters. 

Asked how she would advise Republican U.S. senators up for election in competitive states, such as Collins in Maine and Cory Gardner in Colorado, McDaniel said they should follow the Constitution and fulfill their "advice and consent" role.

"Look at the nominee based on the merits and then make a decision," McDaniel said.

Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, also participated in the bus tour. He said the Supreme Court nomination process will help unify Republicans ahead of the election.

"It ought to be an open process, and the American people can determine if it's fair or not fair," Schlapp said.