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Shadow of Merrick Garland Hangs Over the Next Supreme Court Fight

“I think he is about as well qualified as any nominee to this court,” she said in an interview in her chambers in July 2016. “Super bright and very nice, very easy to deal with. And super prepared. He would be a great colleague.”

For Judge Garland, a grandson of Jewish immigrants who once wanted to be a doctor before settling on the law, the loss of a chance to sit on the Supreme Court was personal and painful, though he took care not to show it. His career was in many ways an extended preparation for it. He had cried when Mr. Obama announced his name to fill the vacancy created by the death of Justice Scalia.

“The manifest unfairness of what happened is, I am sure, as clear to him as anyone else,” Ms. Gorelick said in an interview in February 2017, shortly after Mr. Trump became president. “But he doesn’t dwell on it. He doesn’t talk about it. He appreciates reality for what it is. He knows that his nomination was put in a terrible political limbo, but he is philosophical about it.”

The court is now shorthanded again, as it was in 2016. Back then, the eight-member court deadlocked only four times, and the justices worked hard to find consensus, sometimes at the cost of extremely narrow decisions. At the time, the court was evenly split between its liberal and conservative wings.

The court faces a new kind of divide after Justice Ginsburg’s death, with its Republican appointees outnumbering its Democratic ones 5 to 3. That may leave less room for compromise. As always, there are hugely consequential cases on the docket: A week after the November elections, the court is set to hear oral arguments in a case, backed by the Trump administration, to overturn the Affordable Care Act.

While the odds appear stacked against Democrats, Ms. Aron said in an interview on Saturday that her group would “fight to win this one,” and would remind voters at every turn that “Republicans played politics with the court.”

So far, two Republican senators — Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine — have said they would not vote to confirm a nominee before the election. Mr. Trump pressed Senate Republicans on Saturday to confirm his choice to replace Justice Ginsburg “without delay” and said that he expected to name a candidate in the next week.

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