Washington: Sen. Mitt Romney said Tuesday he would support a floor vote to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, essentially clinching consideration of President Donald Trump’s nominee this year despite the impending election.
Just two Republican senators have asked for the party to put the brakes on the confirmation. And with a 53-seat majority, Senate Majority Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) now has the votes he needs to move forward with a nominee.
The move is a blow to Democrats’ hopes of keeping the seat vacant for the next president, potentially their nominee, Joe Biden. But Romney said he had no qualms about Democrats’ charges of hypocrisy or about strengthening the high court’s conservative majority.
“My liberal friends have over many decades gotten very used to the idea of having a liberal court, but that’s not written in the stars,” the Utah Republican told reporters after this decision. He called it “appropriate for a nation that is … center-right to have a court which reflects center-right points of view.”
Given his criticisms of Trump and vote to remove him from office during the impeachment trial earlier this year, there was some question about where Romney would come down on a Supreme Court nominee. And though Romney’s position doesn’t mean Trump’s yet-to-be-named nominee will definitely have the votes to be confirmed, it does mean McConnell and Trump can move forward without delay.
Senate Republicans on the Judiciary Committee met midday Tuesday to discuss different scenarios for how quickly they can process the nominee. No final decision was made, but a hearing could take place starting the week of October 12, according to a GOP aide. Around the same time as Trump’s tweet, Republicans also decided to wait to announce their schedule until Trump makes his pick, said Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.).
GOP leaders are still mulling whether to try to fill the vacancy before the election or wait until a lame-duck session, but the prevailing view in the party is to move as quickly as possible.
Trump and some Senate allies are pushing a preelection confirmation, though leaders are noncommittal about timing. Thune said it was McConnell’s decision. Romney said he had no preference on timing but also no qualms about conducting a confirmation either before or after the election.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) predicted Tuesday that Trump’s nominee would be confirmed before the election and said he would “keep the process like we had it before” when asked about the length of the confirmation hearing. It would a lightning-fast confirmation by Senate standards and occur exceptionally close to the election.
Only Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine have said the seat shouldn’t be filled this close to the election.
Romney said he was merely following the law in making his decision to allow consideration of Trump’s nominee rather than taking a position based on the recent blockade of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, before the 2016 election. Because the opposition party controlled the Senate in 2016, Romney said, Democrats’ arguments about that move being unfair did not weigh on his decision regarding Ginsburg’s replacement.
Because the president’s party controls the Senate this time around, Romney said it was reasonable for the GOP to move forward in considering Trump’s nominee in 2020.