Updated Sep 22, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Where key GOP senators stand on replacing Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) talks to reporters following the weekly Republican policy luncheon in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill September 15

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell talks to reporters on Capitol Hill last Thursday. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

With President Trump planning to nominate his third Supreme Court justice nominee this week, key Republican senators are indicating their stance on replacing the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with less than 50 days until Election Day.

Driving the news: Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), one of the few Republican senators thought to be a potential swing vote, said Tuesday that he would support moving forward with the confirmation process before the election.

The state of play: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) has vowed that "Trump's nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate."

  • Two GOP senators — Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) — have said they oppose holding a vote before the election.
  • But with the support of Romney and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who is facing a difficult re-election race, it's extremely unlikely that two more Republican defections will materialize and force McConnell to delay until the lame-duck session of Congress.

What they're saying:

  • Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey Graham (S.C.) tweeted Saturday that he would support Trump "in any effort to move forward regarding the recent vacancy created by the passing of Justice Ginsburg." That was despite him opposing confirming then-President Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, because it was an election year. In a letter to his Democratic colleagues on Monday, Graham added that he now has a "different view" of the judicial confirmation process "after the treatment of Justice Kavanaugh" during his 2018 confirmation fight.
  • Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa) told reporters in July he would not have a hearing on a nominee if an election-year vacancy occurred while he was Judiciary Committee chair, a position he gave up in 2018. But he said in a statement Monday that he will not oppose Graham and McConnell's decision to move forward: "The circumstances are different in 2020, where the American people elected a Republican President and Senate in 2016 and expanded the Republican Senate majority in 2018."
  • Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), responding to a question by CNN on whether the Senate would confirm a Trump nominee in a lame-duck session if Biden wins the presidency, said on Monday: "You mean while we're still in our term office, and President Trump is? Of course."
  • Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), who is retiring this year, said in a statement on Sunday, "No one should be surprised that a Republican Senate majority would vote on a Republican President’s Supreme Court nomination, even during a presidential election year. The Constitution gives senators the power to do it. The voters who elected them expect it."
  • Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) said in a statement Sunday, "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."
  • Sen. Thom Tillis (N.C.), who also opposed Garland's 2016 nomination and is in a tough re-election race, said in a statement Saturday, "There is a clear choice on the future of the Supreme Court between the well-qualified and conservative jurist President Trump will nominate and I will support, and the liberal activist Joe Biden will nominate and Cal Cunningham will support, who will legislate radical, left-wing policies from the bench."
  • Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) said in a statement Saturday, "In fairness to the American people, who will either be re-electing 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 3."
  • Sen. Kelly Loeffler (Ga.) told Fox News Saturday, "The Constitution allows this process to keep moving forward and the president has every right to nominate someone, and leader McConnell has said that we will have a vote on the Senate floor on this, and I completely support that. We need to bring forward a conservative justice. ... regardless of it being an election year."
  • Sen. Martha McSally (Ariz.) tweeted Friday, "This U.S. Senate should vote on President Trump's next nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court."
  • Sen. Joni Ernst (Iowa) told reporters in July, "[If] it is a lame-duck session, I would support going ahead with any hearings that we might have. And if it comes to an appointment prior to the end of the year, I would be supportive of that."
  • Sen. Mitt Romney said Tuesday, "The historical precedent of election year nominations is that the Senate generally does not confirm an opposing party’s nominee but does confirm a nominee of its own."
  • Sen. Shelly Moore Capito (R-W.V.) tweeted Tuesday, "President Trump and the Republican Senate, both elected by the American people should act to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by Justice Ginsburg's passing."

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