Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg broke one final barrier on Friday, becoming the first woman and the first Jewish American to lie in state in the United States Capitol.
The honor, arranged by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as well as a private ceremony at the Capitol, brought to a close a week of public memorials for Justice Ginsburg, the liberal jurist and trailblazer for women who died last Friday at 87. Her family plans to hold a private burial next week at Arlington National Cemetery.
Like the memorial at the Supreme Court on Wednesday, the honors beginning at 10 a.m. Friday at the Capitol were brief and mostly limited to family and a small contingent of lawmakers.
Denyce Graves, the mezzo-soprano and a friend of Justice Ginsburg’s, performed “Deep River” and “American Anthem” in tribute to the justice’s love of opera.
Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt of Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, who eulogized Justice Ginsburg on Wednesday, did so again on Friday, recounting how she climbed to the highest court in the nation despite the obstacles she faced in the legal profession as a woman.
“Justice did not arrive like a lightening bolt, but rather through dogged persistence, all the days of her life,” said Rabbi Hotlzblatt, whose husband clerked for Justice Ginsburg from 2014 to 2015. “Real change, she said, enduring change, happens one step at a time.”
Only about 30 Americans have received the honor of lying in state at the Capitol: presidents, military leaders and members of Congress, all of them men. Rosa Parks, the civil rights icon, is the only other woman granted a similar distinction, but as a private citizen, she lay “in honor.” Senator Frank R. Lautenberg of New Jersey, who was Jewish, lay in repose in the Senate chamber in 2013, a similar but lesser honor that has been afforded to prominent senators.
Justice Ginsburg was to lie in the National Statuary Hall on the House side of the Capitol, where Democrats are in control. Many dignitaries have lain in state in the Capitol Rotunda, between the House and Senate, but both chambers must agree and pass special legislation to allow it.
The ceremony paid tribute to the work Justice Ginsburg did for women and was, notably, led by women. While there were some male lawmakers in attendance, it was predominantly the women of Capitol Hill who were present, and there were no male speakers. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, for example, appeared to be the only male senator inside Statuary Hall.
Once the ceremony was over, the women of the 116th Congress paid their respects first, circling in groups of 13 to 15. Once Representative Nanette Barragán, Democrat of California, reached out to touch the coffin, there was an outpouring: Multiple women began to gently press their hands on the coffin, some after placing their hands to their lips first.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, the first woman to hold the speaker’s gavel, oversaw it all, standing by and showing the portrait of Justice Ginsburg that stood in the Capitol.
Most of the lawmakers present were Democrats, but a few Republican women joined to pay their respects: Representative Susan W. Brooks, Republican of Indiana, attended both the ceremony and the viewing; Representatives Elise Stefanik of New York, Martha Roby of Alabama and Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington were also in attendance.
After about two dozen women had paid their respects, male lawmakers began filtering through. A group of women gathered on the steps of the Capitol, hands over their hearts, as the coffin left the building.
Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, the Democratic presidential candidate, and his wife, Jill Biden, were among the dignitaries to pay their respects and attend the ceremony on Friday. Senator Kamala Harris of California, Mr. Biden’s running mate, was also in attendance.
Mr. Biden, who was the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee when President Bill Clinton nominated Justice Ginsburg in 1993, said he had fond recollections of presiding over her confirmation process.
“I first met her when I did her hearings,” he told reporters at the Capitol. “Wonderful memories.”
Earlier, Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leaders, were at the top of the Capitol steps as the hearse carrying Justice Ginsburg’s coffin arrived on the Capitol plaza. A military guard was on hand to carry her remains up the steps for the ceremony in Statuary Hall.
“It is with profound sorrow and deep sympathy to the Ginsburg family that I have the high honor to welcome Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to lie in state in the Capitol of the United States,” Ms. Pelosi said as the brief ceremony began. “She does so on a catafalque built for Abraham Lincoln. May she rest in peace.”
Members of the House and Senate were then invited to pay tribute a few at a time — a pandemic precaution — as Justice Ginsburg lay in state.
The first viewing slots were reserved for the women serving in Congress; Democratic and Republican women were to gather later on the steps of the Capitol as her coffin is carried out.
Republicans including the party’s top leaders, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, were notably absent from the proceedings, although Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the second-ranking Republican, was on hand.
Members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, including Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman, also came to the Capitol to pay their respects.
As lawmakers and other mourners took turns bowing their heads or making signs of the cross to honor Justice Ginsburg, Bryant Johnson, an Army veteran who served as her longtime trainer, honored her with a different kind of gesture: He dropped to the floor before her coffin and did three full push-ups.
The justice maintained a regular, intense fitness regimen despite her age and health problems, becoming famous for rigorous workouts consisting of weight lifting, squats, planks and arm presses.
In 2017, Justice Ginsburg joked that Mr. Bryant was the most important person in her life.
“I found each time that when I’m active,” she said in 2019, “I’m much better than if I’m just lying about and feeling sorry for myself.”
In a stirring eulogy, Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt of Adas Israel Congregation in Washington honored Justice Ginsburg as “our prophet, our North Star and our strength for so very long,” telling the story of a legal advocate and jurist who bent her life toward justice.
The daughter of a bookkeeper in Brooklyn, Justice Ginsburg’s rise in American law and life was anything but a given, the rabbi said. She buried her mother the day before her high school graduation, fought sexism in law school and on the job market, and was denied a job by every New York law firm she applied to.
Later, after achieving towering legal success as a private lawyer and then as a justice, she fought cancer five times, remaining on the bench until her death last Friday. Rabbi Holtzblatt, whose husband clerked for Justice Ginsburg from 2014 to 2015, said the justice embodied the Torah command inscribed on a framed piece of art that hung in her chambers: “Justice, justice you must pursue.”
“Pursuing justice took resilience, persistence, a commitment to never stop,” Rabbi Holtzblatt said. “As a lawyer, she won equality for women and men — not in one swift victory but brick by brick, case by case, through meticulous, careful lawyering. She changed the course of American law. And even when her views did not prevail, she still fought.”
“Now,” she added, “she must be permitted to rest, after toiling so long for all of us.”
The rabbi recounted a story told by Justice Ginsburg about a private moment with Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court, reflecting on the silver lining to all the barriers they faced as women in the legal world.
“Suppose we had come of age in a time when women lawyers were welcome at the bar,” Justice Ginsburg recalled Justice O’Connor telling her. “You know what? Today we would have been retired partners from some large law firm. But because it was not open for us, we had to find another way, and both end up on the United States Supreme Court.”
Justice Ginsburg was a passionate opera fan from her youth, and one of her favorite singers, the American mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves, sang for her one last time on Friday at the Capitol ceremony.
Ms. Graves, her voice reverberating off the marble of Statuary Hall, performed the spiritual “Deep River” and Gene Scheer’s “American Anthem.”
A Washington native, Ms. Graves, 56, became famous as a sultry Carmen in Bizet’s opera. She and Laura Ward, her piano accompanist on Friday, also performed at the funeral of Justice Ginsburg’s husband, Marty, in 2010.
After Justice Ginsburg saw her first opera — a condensed version of “La Gioconda” in 1944, when she was 11 — she was immediately hooked, becoming the kind of aficionado who went to dress rehearsals, then opening nights and then closing nights, too, for good measure.
“Most of the time, even when I go to sleep, I’m thinking about legal problems,” she said in 2015. “But when I go to the opera, I’m just lost in it.”
It was a love she shared with Justice Antonin Scalia, her Supreme Court colleague, friend and ideological antagonist; an opera, “Scalia/Ginsburg,” was written in 2015 about their relationship. The two shared the stage on occasion as (silent) supernumeraries, though in 2016 Justice Ginsburg also had a turn in the speaking role of the Duchess of Krakenthorp in Donizetti’s “La Fille du Régiment” at Washington National Opera.
“She was our greatest advocate and our greatest spokesperson,” that company’s director, Francesca Zambello, told The New York Times. “She carried this art form.”
As the Democratic House prepared to celebrate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s life and legacy, White House officials and Senate Republicans busied themselves on Friday with preparations of their own to usher in a conservative successor to the Supreme Court with remarkable speed.
In Washington, mourning has its limits when power is at stake. In this case, with the promise of a 6-to-3 conservative majority on the court in reach, Republicans were aiming for a vote before Election Day, just over a month away.
President Trump was expected to name his nominee at a ceremony at 5 p.m. Saturday. Senators and presidential advisers widely expected him to choose Judge Amy Coney Barrett of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, the preference of anti-abortion conservatives.
Democrats were fiercely opposed to filling the seat so close to Election Day, especially after Republicans refused to consider a liberal nominee put forward by President Barack Obama in 2016 because they said voters should have a say in an election year. Democrats were prepared to make a case that Judge Barrett in particular was too far to the right, posing a threat to abortion rights and the Affordable Care Act.
But with a 53-to-47 majority in the Senate, Republicans had the votes they needed to press ahead. Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, planned to announce on Saturday that he would hold confirmation hearings as soon as Oct. 12 and aim to confirm the president’s nominee before the end of October, according to people familiar with his thinking who were not authorized to discuss it.
If all goes according to plan, that would allow a new justice to be seated before the court will hear any election-related cases, and before a major hearing in November on the legality of the health care law, which the Trump administration is pressing to overturn.
President Trump was jeered by protesters on Thursday morning as he paid his respects to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, standing silently by her coffin at the top of the Supreme Court steps as a vigorous chant of “Vote him out!” erupted on the street below.
Wearing a face mask — unusual for him — and a blue tie instead of his trademark red power tie, Mr. Trump stared ahead and closed his eyes at times near the justice’s flag-draped coffin.
But the quiet of the moment was punctured by the loud boos and shouts of demonstrators about a block away. Along with the chant of “Vote him out!” were calls of “Honor her wish!” — a reference to Justice Ginsburg’s reported deathbed request that her replacement not be confirmed until a “new president is installed.”
It was not clear whether Mr. Trump and the first lady, Melania Trump, who joined him for a visit of less than two minutes, could hear the heckling, which was clearly audible on television.
Asked later in the day about the jeering, Mr. Trump said he could “hardly hear it.”
“Somebody said there was some chanting, but they were right next to the media,” he told a reporter. “But we really could hardly hear too much. We heard — we heard a sound, but it wasn’t very strong.”
Earlier, the White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, condemned the jeering protesters.
“The chants were appalling, but certainly to be expected when you’re in the heart of the swamp,” she said. “I thought it was an appalling and disrespectful thing to do, as the president honored Justice Ginsburg.”
Mr. Trump has angered many supporters of Justice Ginsburg by quickly announcing that he would nominate a new conservative justice to succeed her before the election in November, and by questioning, without evidence, whether her “dying wish” that another president appoint her replacement was real or concocted by top Democrats.