Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, said on Monday that he would support moving forward before the election to fill the Supreme Court vacancy after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and his fellow Republican, Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado, later announced that he would vote to confirm any “qualified nominee.”
Mr. Grassley’s announcement, a reversal of his earlier stance on election-year vacancies, and Mr. Gardner’s statement significantly strengthened the hand of Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, who has vowed to confirm a new justice in the coming months.
“This Senate will vote on this nomination this year,” Mr. McConnell confirmed on Monday, though it remains unclear if he will press for a vote before or after the Nov. 3 general election.
The announcement by Mr. Grassley, the most senior Senate Republican and a former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was perhaps most helpful to Mr. McConnell, who has made it clear he would move forward with President Trump’s nominee despite the party’s refusal to consider President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court pick in 2016. At the time, Mr. McConnell, Mr. Grassley and other Republicans had argued that doing so in a presidential election year would not be appropriate.
On Monday, Mr. McConnell restated his intention to move forward. “The Senate has more than sufficient time to process a nomination,” Mr. McConnell said in a speech meant to knock down complaints lodged by Democrats. “History and precedent make that perfectly clear.”
With President Trump vowing to name a replacement by the weekend, Mr. McConnell has been working behind the scenes to lock up the support he would need to proceed.
Republicans could try to rush to confirm a replacement for Justice Ginsburg before Election Day. But doing so could put some of their members up for election — including Mr. Gardner — in greater political peril and keep them off the campaign trail in the crucial closing weeks of the campaign. There are risks in waiting, too, particularly if voters overwhelmingly reject Mr. Trump and Republican senators at the ballot box.
Two Republican senators, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, have publicly objected to the idea of a vote before Election Day, meaning Mr. McConnell could only afford to lose one more member of his party, given his slim, 53-to-47 majority.
That focused attention on Mr. Grassley, Mr. Gardner and Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, who were seen as possible holdouts but had said nothing publicly about their intentions.
Mr. Grassley’s flip was likely to fuel Democrats’ outrage over what they are calling rank hypocrisy by Republicans in light of their actions and statements in 2016.
Around the same time, Iowa’s junior senator, Joni Ernst, who is in a tough re-election fight this fall, indicated she, too, would support moving forward, though she did not explicitly say she would support voting on a nominee this year. Polls have shown Ms. Ernst, who is also a member of Mr. McConnell’s leadership team, in a dead heat with her Democratic opponent, Theresa Greenfield.
“Once the president puts forward his nominee for the Supreme Court, I will carry out my duty — as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee — to evaluate the nominee for our nation’s highest court,” she said.