WASHINGTON – The race is on for Republicans to quickly fill the Supreme Court vacancy left after Ruth Bader Ginsburg‘s death but not all GOP senators are on board with the idea of holding a confirmation vote before the Nov. 3 election.
President Donald Trump has expressed a preference for getting a candidate confirmed before Election Day. Democrats argue that the Senate should allow the winner of the presidential election, whether it is Joe Biden or Trump, to put forth the nominee for Ginsburg’s sea.
Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the chamber.
Several Republicans, including some facing tough elections, have lined up behind Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s pledge to hold a vote on Trump’s nominee. That includes Sens. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., Thom Tillis, R-N.C. and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee – the panel charged with examining judicial nominees –backtracked on his previous remarks vowing to oppose a Supreme Court nomination so close to an election. Graham faces a competitive election of his own this year.
Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, have said they do not think a confirmation vote should take place before the election.
Here is what key senators have said about the issue:
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska
Murkowski, a moderate Republican, reiterated her previous comments about filling a vacancy in a Sept. 20 statement: “For weeks, I have stated that I would not support taking up a potential Supreme Court vacancy this close to the election. Sadly, what was then a hypothetical is now our reality, but my position has not changed.”
Murkowski voted for Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, but she voted against advancing the nomination of his second nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Murkowski voted “present” on the final vote for Kavanaugh to allow a Senate colleague to attend his daughter’s wedding but said she opposed the nomination.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah
Romney, a moderate who is sometimes critical of Trump, has not yet commented on a replacement. Elected in 2018, he was not yet in office when the Senate voted on Kavanaugh and Gorsuch.
He has bucked Trump on other issues in the past, though. Romney voted to impeach Trump on one of the two counts in February and has frequently criticized the president and has drawn his ire on Twitter.
Romney spokesperson Liz Johnson shot down a viral Twitter post alleging Romney had committed to not confirming a nominee until after Inauguration Day in August 2021, calling it “grossly false. #fakenews.”
The senator’s statement on Ginsburg’s death released Friday evening hailed her “record of distinguished service” but did not reference filling the vacancy.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine
Collins, a moderate Republican facing a tough reelection race in Maine, said after Ginsburg’s death she did not think the Senate should vote on a Supreme Court nominee before the election, though she left the door open to voting on one after the election.
Collins voted for both Kavanaugh and Gorsuch.
“Given the proximity of the presidential election, however, I do not believe that the Senate should vote on the nominee prior to the election,” she said. “In fairness to the American people, who will either be reelecting the president or selecting a new one, the decision on a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court should be made by the President who is elected on November 3rd.”
Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo.
Gardner, who is facing a tight race in Colorado, dodged when asked about it in Colorado after Ginsburg’s death, according to the Denver Post and other local media outlets.
Gardner voted for both Kavanaugh and Gorsuch.
Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala.
Jones, the Democrat facing the toughest race in November, has yet to weigh in publicly on how the Senate should handle the vacancy left by Ginsburg but he has said previously that he would fight to block such an appointment.
But Jones accused McConnell and Trump of dishonoring Ginsburg’s legacy by focusing so quickly on the battle to replace her.
“I’m saddened – though not surprised – by how quickly this has turned into a political power play by Trump and McConnell,” he said in a campaign email on Saturday. “It not only dishonors the legacy of an American icon, it distorts the Constitutional process – a deliberate process that the Senate has always used to uphold the independence of our judicial branch.”
Jones voted against Kavanaugh but was not in the Senate for Gorsuch’s nomination.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V.
Manchin, a red-state Democrat, declined to comment when asked about filling the vacancy on MSNBC’s “Way Too Early with Kasie Hunt” on Monday morning.
“Shouldn’t we at least show the dignity of the family, celebrate her life, and let’s maybe take a week?” he said. “Couldn’t we do that until we lay her to rest and her soul rest in peace and then we move one because there’s plenty of time for the political bickering back and forth.”
Manchin voted for both Kavanaugh and Gorsuch.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa
Grassley, one of the most senior members of the Senate, told Iowa reporters in July he would not favor moving forward but said the decision was ultimately up to Graham or McConnell.
“I would have to tell him that I wouldn’t have a hearing,” Grassley said. “But if he decides to have a hearing, that’s his decision. And then whether or not the nominee would come up on the floor before the election would be Chairman (sic) McConnell’s decision, and you would have to ask him what he’s going to do in that regard.”
Grassley voted for Kavanaugh and Gorsuch.
Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas
Roberts, a retiring Republican, is viewed as one of the chamber’s institutionalists who could be wary of how filling this vacancy could impact the Senate long-term after Senate Republicans also blocked President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland in 2016. As a retiring senator, he does not have to worry about his re-election and the electoral implications of a decision on a nominee.
He has been eyed as a potential swing vote on some of the Senate’s most consequential matters, such as earlier this year during Trump’s impeachment trial, though he ultimately voted to acquit Trump.
He has yet to weigh in on filling Ginsburg’s vacancy.
Roberts voted for Kavanaugh and Gorsuch.