Senate Republicans said Monday they are ready to vote on a Supreme Court nominee, despite the election-year timing and the objections of Democrats, and they appear to have the votes to do it.
“I think the vast majority of our conference is going to be OK with whatever the speed with which we move is,” Sen. Mike Braun, an Indiana Republican, told the Washington Examiner.
A Monday evening statement by Sen. Cory Gardner, a Colorado Republican, appears to give Republicans at least 50 votes in favor of moving and eventually confirming a nominee, with Vice President Mike Pence able to break a tie if needed.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday the Senate will vote sometime this year on a high-court nominee to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died on Friday.
McConnell did not indicate whether the nomination would make it to the floor before the Nov. 3 election or sometime later this year, but the timing is expected to be sorted out quickly, a GOP aide said.
So far, Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski are the only two GOP senators signaling they’ll oppose consideration of any nominee this year.
Sen. Mitt Romney, a Utah Republican who frequently clashes with President Trump, told reporters in the Capitol Monday night he would wait to make a decision and planned to confer with fellow Republicans at a critical, closed-door GOP conference meeting on Tuesday.
Republicans control 53 votes, and even if Romney opposes taking up a nominee, Pence could cast the deciding vote.
Consideration of a Supreme Court nominee is considered the most consequential vote of a senator’s career, and it will be difficult for Republicans to vote to block a nominee selected by a president in their own party, no matter the timing.
Murkowski and Collins base their current objection on the GOP’s decision in 2016 to block consideration of Merrick Garland, who was President Barack Obama’s pick to succeed the late Justice Antonin Scalia. At the time, McConnell cited the upcoming election as the reason for punting on Garland.
Collins is running in a highly contested race for a fifth term, and recent polls show her trailing Democratic competitor Sara Gideon.
Democrats have attacked McConnell this week on his announced plan to try to confirm a nominee.
Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said the GOP had “no right” to confirm a nominee so close to the election and accused McConnell of a double standard.
“If that was how Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans justified their mindless obstruction of President Obama’s nominee, surely, they must abide by their own standard,” Schumer said. “What’s fair is fair. A senator’s word must count for something.”
But Republicans told the Washington Examiner the circumstances are not the same today.
“Four years ago, Obama was president, and we were in control of the Senate, and we certainly weren’t going to do it,” Sen. Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican, told the Washington Examiner. “There’s a political equation here, too. Why would enough Republicans turn their back on a conservative judge, when they’ve got the power and they could lose the power. That would be more than dumb.”
Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, told the Washington Examiner he won’t hesitate to vote on a high-court nominee this year and neither should his Republican colleagues.
“Isn’t that what we are supposed to do? Isn’t that our job?” Paul said. “I don’t think there is any constitutional mandate you shouldn’t let a president appoint someone and approve them. I think that is what we are supposed to do, that’s our job.”
Gardner put out a statement Monday supporting the consideration of a nominee. He was among the remaining Republicans whose decisions were in question. Gardner is up for a second term, and his reelection bid is considered a toss-up.
“I have and will continue to support judicial nominees who will protect our Constitution, not legislate from the bench, and uphold the law,” Gardner said. “Should a qualified nominee who meets this criteria be put forward, I will vote to confirm.”
Other Republicans told the Washington Examiner they, too, would base their decision on Trump’s nominee and whether they approved of his choice. Trump has released a long list of conservative names who are widely supported by the GOP.
“For me, personally, I’m simply waiting to see who the president is going to nominate,” said Sen. Mike Rounds, a South Dakota Republican.
Trump said he would make an announcement by the weekend, after services for Ginsburg take place.
“My consideration is based on the nominee,” Sen. Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican, said. “I want to make sure I’m voting for a pro-Constitution justice.”
He said the nominee’s interpretation of Roe v. Wade, the high-court decision legalizing abortion, is also critical. Hawley called it “my threshold question.”
The favorite among the most conservative lawmakers is U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Amy Coney Barrett, 48, a constitutional scholar, devout Catholic, and mother of seven who was confirmed by the Senate in 2017 with the backing of three Democrats.
“That seems to be the one everyone is talking about, if only because she’s been considered before,” Sen. Jim Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, said.
Hawley and other Republicans said the Senate should act before the election because a lame-duck confirmation would be more difficult if the Senate flips to Democratic control or Trump loses to former Vice President Joe Biden.
“I suspect you’ll have folks within my caucus who would then become less comfortable, depending on the outcome,” Hawley said. “It introduces a whole new set of considerations. I think it should ideally come before Election Day.”
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