While the nation mourns and plans for a state viewing in the Capitol are unveiled, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death also is casting a great deal of uncertainty over all three branches of government. When it comes to the pandemic, one thing seems immediately clear: A significant deal on COVID legislation seems much less likely.
Serious discussions over the next relief package had been at a stalemate since early August, but pressure to get something done appeared to be growing. Each side had recently indicated some willingness to slightly modify its last proposal on the negotiating table, including President Trump saying positive things about a $1.52 trillion bipartisan proposal.
But the COVID debate has gone silent since Ginsburg’s death, with all oxygen in the White House and Congress being consumed by the opening on the Supreme Court.
Democratic leaders have less negotiating room to work something out with the White House and congressional Republicans on COVID when they are fighting over the Senate’s procedures and the future of the Supreme Court. And Republicans likely could conclude the court fight is more important to voters than expending energy on compromising over the type of big COVID package Democrats are demanding.
Ginsburg’s death also obviously has other implications, including in the medium term on the presidential and congressional elections this November. Over the longer term, it could add fuel to efforts to reshape the legislative process and make it easier for a majority in the Senate to pass controversial legislation. And most critically, it could shift the Supreme Court to the right in a way that will vastly impact American life for many years to come.