Kansas Senate debate on filling Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat

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TOPEKA, Kan. — The Republican nominee for Kansas’ open Senate seat called Saturday for quick action to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Republican Roger Marshall, a two-term congressman for western and central Kansas, and Democrat Barbara Bollier, a Kansas City-area state senator, differed dramatically over how quickly the Senate should move to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court created by Ginsburg’s death Friday.

Bollier, like many Democrats, argued that the Senate should wait, that leaders elected in November should make the decisions.

“We should not be politicizing our Supreme Court,” she said.

But Marshall fully embraced U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s plan to have a confirmation vote on President Trump’s nominee.

“The concern here is her replacement could be 40, 45 years old. This is a lifetime appointment,” Dave Helling, a columnist for The Kansas City Star, told FOX4. “It could take 30 or 40 years before this seat comes open again, and so it’s just an extraordinarily important decision and that’s more important really than the ideological split. It just locks in conservative majorities for decades, and that’s why the democrats are so aggressive, I think, in fighting.”

Republicans in 2016 blocked consideration of Democratic President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland after conservative Justice Antonin Scalia’s death nine months before Obama left office, but Marshall said this year is different because voters elected a GOP president and Senate with a Republican majority.

“Our Senate needs to move forward to confirm a conservative, pro-life, constitutionalist judge who will apply the law and not write the law,” Marshall said. “This is not 2016. Republicans were elected to do just this.”

Marshall and Bollier are seeking to replace retiring four-term GOP Senator Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Republicans haven’t lost a Senate race in Kansas since 1932, but Bollier has shown herself an unusually strong fundraiser and is aggressively wooing moderate Republican and independent voters.

With Republicans facing competitive races in other states, a tough race in Kansas could complicate their efforts to retain their 53-47 Senate majority.

To paint Bollier as too liberal for Kansas, Republicans are attacking her over her strong support of abortion rights as a legislator, which included voting against a raft of proposed restrictions favored by fellow GOP state lawmakers.

Marshall also pressed on the Green New Deal, suggesting that Bollier’s election would lead to a Democratic majority in the Senate and a push for those policies. Bollier said the U.S. should rejoin the 2015 Paris agreement committing nations to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which Trump abandoned, but called the Green New Deal “government overreach.”

The two candidates had one of their sharpest exchanges after Bollier said for a second time that the Green New Deal was not “a realistic path forward.” Marshall scoffed at her disavowal.

“She left the Republican Party in favor of those Democratic values,” Marshall said. “They’re going to come after her vote, and she’s going to give it up.”

Bollier shot back: “There you go again, Roger, running over the truth.”

She added, “I am known for my independent voice. Stop deceiving voters.”

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