WASHINGTON (AP) — Commemorations are set to begin Friday honoring the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the U.S. Capitol, the first woman in American history to lie in state at the domed building, capping days of commemoration of her extraordinary life.
Mourners are paying tribute to Ginsburg, who died last week at age 87, as her casket was on public view at the court’s iconic steps. It made the short procession across the street Friday morning for the private Capitol ceremony with elected officials, family and other invited guests amid coronavirus social distancing restrictions.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, arrived, walked quietly through the Capitol hallway, and running mate vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris is also attending. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is planning to welcome Ginsburg’s casket as the Capitol under turmoil as President Donald Trump’s prepares to announce a conservative nominee to replace the liberal icon weeks before the election.
Speaking ahead of the event, Pelosi told CBS that Americans need to know what’s at stake for the “rush” to confirm Ginsburg’s replacement.
The politics of the moment, in a tense election year, rippled throughout the celebrations this week of Ginsburg’s life and career. But the ceremony is expected to be a celebration and honoring of her life and work, with musical selections from one of Ginsburg’s favorite opera singers, mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves.
Several member of Congress, including Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., a former presidential contender are attending. Members of the House and Senate who are not invited to the ceremony because of space limitations imposed by the coronavirus pandemic will be able to pay their respects before a motorcade carrying Ginsburg’s casket departs the Capitol early afternoon.
The honor of lying in state has been accorded fewer than three dozen times, mostly to presidents, vice presidents, and members of Congress. Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights icon, was the most recent person to lie in state following his death in July. Henry Clay, the Kentucky lawmaker who served as Speaker of the House and also was a senator, was the first in 1852. Rosa Parks — a private citizen, not a government official — is the only woman who has lain in honor at the Capitol.
Ginsburg has lain in repose for two days at the Supreme Court, where thousands of people paid their respects, including President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump on Thursday. Spectators booed and chanted “vote him out” as the president, who wore a mask, stood silently near Ginsburg’s casket at the top of the court’s front steps.
Trump plans to announce his nomination Saturday of a woman to take Ginsburg’s place on the high court, where she served for 27 years and was the leader of the liberal justices.
Ginsburg, the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court, will be buried next week in Arlington National Cemetery beside her husband, Martin, who died in 2010.