Republicans on Tuesday ripped liberal Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for wading into presidential politics, saying her remarks earlier this week about Donald Trump went too far.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said it was inappropriate for Ginsburg to joke about moving to New Zealand if Trump wins the White House.
“She crossed the line,” said Rubio, who suspended his own presidential campaign in March. “It’s unfortunate it’s the way rhetoric has become in American politics.”
He said Ginsburg’s comments don’t “reflect well on the court.”
“I obviously don’t agree with many of her decisions, so I don’t think she should have been on there to begin with,” he added.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called Ginsburg’s remarks “totally inappropriate,” saying it would lead people to think the court’s justices were not impartial.
“It raises the level of skepticism that the American people have … about just how objective the Supreme Court is,” he told reporters.
The entry into presidential politics is unusual for a Supreme Court justice, though Ginsburg, affectionately dubbed by her fans as the “Notorious RBG,” is known for bending those informal rules.
Ginsburg told The New York Times that she “can’t imagine what the country would be — with Donald Trump as our president.”
“For the country, it could be four years,” she said. “For the court, it could be — I don’t even want to contemplate that.”
She later quoted her late husband Martin Ginsburg, saying, “Now it’s time for us to move to New Zealand.”
Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, fired back at Ginsburg on Tuesday, calling her a “disgrace” to the court.
The presidential election is of particular importance in determining the balance of power on the court, which now has just eight members following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February.
Senate Republicans have refused to budge on their position to not hold a nomination hearing or vote on President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, who Ginsburg endorsed in the Times interview as a fine judge.
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) said Ginsburg’s comments “demonstrate how politically oriented some of the members of the Supreme Court have become.”
“I think it’s inappropriate, but that’s the state of the hyper-charged political environment we’re in, and I lay that at the feet of President Obama,” he said. “He’s created one of the most politically divided nations that we’ve ever experienced.”
Obama has appointed two justices to the court: Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
Thillis and Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) said it’s up to Chief Justice John Roberts to decide if Ginsburg’s remarks were out of line.
Asked if Ginsburg should apologize to Trump personally, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said, “That’s about as likely as me being the nominee.”
Others were quick to come to her defense.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who publicly endorsed Trump after meeting with him May, told The Hill that Ginsburg “has a right to give her opinion. I don’t have any problems [with that].”
Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), meanwhile, pointed to the First Amendment.
“As far as I know the freedom of speech clause applies to Supreme Court justices just like it does to everybody else,” he said.
Ginsburg’s remarks aren’t the first time a Supreme Court justice has discussed a presidential race.
Justice Sandra Day O’Connor made headlines in 2000 when she uttered “this is terrible” during an election night party when it looked like Al Gore was going to defeat George W. Bush, according to a Washington Post report.