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WASHINGTON — The jolt of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death — and of the vacancy she left behind — was so fully felt across Texas this weekend that even the state’s most hardened political players conceded they didn’t have a handle on the implications.
What they do expect: an apocalyptic fight in the U.S. Senate over filling the Supreme Court seat, regardless of the timeline for when a new justice might be confirmed. And both Texas Republicans and Democrats anticipate surges in fundraising, further polarizing an already heated 2020 election season. Already, dominant Democratic fundraising platform ActBlue said it had raised a staggering $100 million by midday Sunday.
“It’s a big deal and will impact voters in a real way. It may even move soft Trump supporters or non-Trump supporters to vote for him,” GOP consultant Brendan Steinhauser told The Texas Tribune. “And I expect it to cause Dems to really turn out.”
“It’s going to be a battle royale,” he added.
The battle to replace Justice Ginsburg will have historic effects on the national political and legislative landscape, including on the question of access to abortion.
It also is apt to shape Republican Texas U.S. Sen. John Cornyn’s bid for a fourth term this November. And while it may not be immediately intuitive, the national political conflict is also influencing scores of Texas House races also on voters’ ballots. These forces are all colliding during what already had the potential to be a generational turning point in Texas politics.
Ginsburg died Friday due to complications from pancreatic cancer. A day later, President Donald Trump said he would announce his nominee — who will be a woman — this week. Both of the state’s senators, Cornyn and Ted Cruz, are expected to support the nominee. But in 2016, both Republican men supported waiting until after that year’s presidential election to hold hearings for a nominee to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, who died more than eight months before the election. Cornyn said at the time that his position was partially predicated on the fact that Democratic President Barack Obama was about to be term-limited and Republicans had recently taken control of the chamber.
Republicans in Texas and across the country are perhaps closer than they’ve ever been to realizing what many in the party consider the holy grail of their political goals. The ideological balance of the high court, already tilted in favor of the conservative justices, is in play just six weeks before the Nov. 3 general election. At the same time, Texas Democrats find themselves facing both their most hopeful moment for significant power in state government — and the most consequential threat to issues they’ve championed like civil rights and abortion access.
Ginsburg’s death may also have major implications for a Texas-led lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act, set for oral arguments on Nov. 10. The justice had been on the side of the majority several times when the high court upheld the law against past challenges. Supporters of Obama’s landmark health care law had pinned their hopes on Chief Justice John Roberts joining the court’s four liberal members to uphold it again.
And immigration policy remains an area ripe for legal review, including a significant case out of Texas that could affect the fates of 700,000 young people who face deportation. Restricting immigration, both illegal and legal, has been a major focus of the Trump administration.
“Without her [Ginsburg’s] legal scholarship, her analysis, her passion, her empathies, she’s going to be missed if she’s replaced by someone that will simply be picked to rubber stamp…