Top Republicans appear to give Trump just enough support to confirm a replacement for Justice Ginsburg

  • Republican Sens. Charles E. Grassley and Cory Gardner have reversed course and say they will confirm a Supreme Court nominee during an election year.
  • President Donald Trump has yet to pick a nominee to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died on Friday, but a short-list of potential nominees was released. 
  • In 2016, both Grassley and Gardner refused to confirm a nominee because it was a presidential election year. 
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Republicans in the Senate appear to have given President Donald Trump the support he would need to fill Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Supreme Court seat. However, even with this support, there are only 43 days before the November election — and even fewer days when the Senate is in session.

Justice Ginsburg died on Friday at the age of 87 due to complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer. 

The Senate is made up of 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats, and two Independents who caucus with Democrats, and while some Republicans said they opposed considering a nominee before the election, The New York Times reported that two of the three senators who could have posed hurdles to filling the position prior to the election said they would vote to confirm.

Republican Sens. Charles E. Grassley and Cory Gardner plan to vote on a replacement, despite refusing to consider a nomination in 2016, another election year, by then-President Barack Obama. 

In July of this year, Grassley said: “If I were chairman of the committee and this vacancy occurred, I would not have a hearing on it because that’s what I promised the people in 2016.”

However, on Monday, he walked back on that statement. 

“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 in a statement. “Should a qualified nominee who meets this criteria be put forward, I will vote to confirm.”

In 2016, however, Gardener said it would not be right to have Obama fill a vacancy, several months before the election. 

“Our next election is too soon and the stakes are too high,” Gardner said eight months before the 2016 election. “[T]he American people deserve a role in this process as the next Supreme Court nominee will influence the direction of this country for years to come.”

On Fox News on Monday, Sen. Lindsey Graham, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said his committee had the votes to move forward — even before Trump announced his nominee.

“We’ve got the votes to confirm Justice Ginsburg’s replacement before the election, we’re going to move forward in the committee, we’re going to report the nomination out of the committee to the floor of the United States Senate so we can vote before the election,” Senator Lindsey Graham said in a Fox News interview

A shortlist of potential candidates has been released but no official nominee has been announced. According to the Times, Trump plans to announce his pick by either Friday or Saturday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell previously said a nominee “will receive a vote on the floor of the Senate.”

McConnell set the precedent for opposing nominating a new justice during an election year in 2016 — blocking Obama’s nominee along with Grassley.

Following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016, McConnell said: “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.”

Senator Mitt Romney of Utah is the only Senator left who appears to be undecided, but even without him, Republicans still have at least 50 senators willing to vote in favor. In this scenario, Vice President Mike Pence would be the tiebreaker. 

Republicans such as Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, who is facing a tough reelection fight, said they thought the seat should not be filled until after the election.

The election is in 43 days, but The Times reported that since 1975, no Supreme Court Justice confirmation took less than 62 days to move through confirmation.

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