Trump to Republican senators: ‘Obligation’ to vote without delay on justice to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Donald Trump on Saturday urged the Republican-run Senate to consider “without delay” his upcoming nomination to fill the Supreme Court seat vacated by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg just six weeks before the election.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., vowed on Friday night, hours after Ginsburg’s death, to call a vote for whomever Trump nominated. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said any vote should come after the Nov. 3 election. “Voters should pick the president and the president should pick the justice to consider,” Biden said.
The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg just six weeks before the election has cast an immediate spotlight on the crucial high court vacancy. McConnell, who sets the calendar in the Senate and has made judicial appointments his priority, declared unequivocally in a statement not long after Ginsburg’s death was announced that Trump’s nominee would receive a confirmation vote in the chamber. In 2016, McConnell refused to consider President Barack Obama’s choice for the high court months ahead of the election, eventually preventing a vote. His rationale at the time: that a justice should not be selected in an election year.
Democrats immediately denounced McConnell’s move as hypocritical, pointing out that he refused to call hearings for Merrick Garland, Obama’s pick, 237 days before the 2016 election. The 2020 election is 46 days away.
Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer, in a tweet, echoed word for word what McConnell said in 2016 about the Garland nomination: “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”
A confirmation vote in the Senate is not guaranteed, even with a Republican majority.
Typically it takes several months to vet and hold hearings on a Supreme Court nominee, and time is short ahead of the election. Key senators may be reluctant to cast votes so close to the election. With a slim GOP majority, 53 seats in the 100-member chamber, Trump’s choice could afford to lose only a few. Four GOP defections could defeat a nomination, while a tie vote could be broken by Vice President Mike Pence.
Among the senators to watch are Republicans Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah and others.
Collins is in a tight race for her own reelection, as are several other GOP senators, including Cory Gardner in Colorado. Murkowski and Romney have been critical of Trump and protective of the institution of the Senate.
Some Republicans, including Collins and Murkowski, have suggested previously that hearings should wait if a seat were to open. And because the Arizona Senate race is a special election, that seat could be filled as early as Nov. 30 — which would narrow the window for McConnell if the Democratic candidate, Mark Kelly, hangs onto his lead.
McConnell did not specify the timing, but trying for confirmation in a post-election lame-duck session if Trump loses to Biden or Republicans lose the Senate would carry further political complications.
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