Mitch McConnell Said 'No' to Ruth Bader Ginsburg Lying in State at the Capitol, New Book Claims

McConnell reportedly said the move would be without precedent

Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi
Mitch McConnell (left) and Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Sarah Silbiger-Pool/Getty; Stefani Reynolds/Getty

Late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the first woman who lie in state at the U.S. Capitol, following her September death at age 87 — but her casket was not placed in the rotunda, at the objection of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, according to a new book.

In the biography Madam Speaker: Nancy Pelosi and the Lessons of Power, USA Today's Susan Page writes that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, 81, initially proposed that Ginsburg lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda.

But McConnell, 79, disagreed with the proposal — arguing that the move was without precedent in U.S. history, Page writes in excerpts of the book obtained by CNN.

The Republican is said to have noted that while former Chief Justice William Howard Taft had lain in state in 1930, Taft was president before joining the court.

As a special service in the Rotunda requires sign-off from leaders of both chambers of Congress, Ginsburg's coffin was ultimately placed in Statuary Hall, on the House side of the Capitol.

There she lie in repose for three days of public viewings in Washington, D.C. in September. She was the first woman and the first Jewish person to lie in state at the Capitol.

McConnell's office did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

Kamala Harris (Democrat of California) arrives for a ceremony before Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg lies in state in Statuary Hall of the Capitol in Washington, DC
Ruth Bader Ginsburg's flag-draped casket is carried into Statuary Hall to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 25, 2020. Chip Somodevilla/Getty
ruth bader ginsburg
Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Hours after the news that Ginsburg had died at her home last year due to complications of metastatic cancer, McConnell vowed that the Senate would vote on her replacement before former President Donald Trump left office.

The move drew backlash, especially among Democrats who said McConnell was reversing himself after earlier blocking Barack Obama's final nomination in the final months of his term.

"In the last midterm election before Justice Scalia's death in 2016, Americans elected a Republican Senate majority because we pledged to check and balance the last days of a lame-duck president's second term," McConnell said in a statement on the passing of the Supreme Court justice. "We kept our promise. Since the 1880s, no Senate has confirmed an opposite-party president's Supreme Court nominee in a presidential election year."

His statement continued: "By contrast, Americans reelected our majority in 2016 and expanded it in 2018 because we pledged to work with President Trump and support his agenda, particularly his outstanding appointments to the federal judiciary ... President Trump's nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate."

That defense did not allay the controversy of Ginsburg's replacement process.

In another excerpt of Page's book reported by CNN, Pelosi is quoted as saying McConnell is "not a force for good in our country" and is "an enabler of some of the worst stuff, and an instigator of some of it on his own."

CNN reports that, according to Page, Pelosi called the Republican "Moscow Mitch" just to irritate him.

Ginsburg was ultimately replaced by former federal judge Amy Coney Barrett, widely viewed as a conservative jurist, who was nominated eight days after Ginsburg's death.

Barrett, 49, was confirmed with a final vote of 52-48. As The New York Times noted, it was the first time in 151 years that a justice was confirmed to the Supreme Court without any votes from the minority party.

Barrett is a self-described judicial "originalist," meaning she interprets the Constitution by the meaning she believes it had when it was written and ratified.

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