In the hours before U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away last Friday, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski (R) insisted that she would not support confirming a new Supreme Court Justice with less than two months to go until the election, should a vacancy open up. Now, following Ginsburg’s passing and the concurrent vacancy on the nation’s highest court, Murkowski has reiterated that she does not support confirming a Ginsburg replacement prior to the election.
‘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. I did not support taking up a nomination eight months before the 2016 election to fill the vacancy created by the passing of Justice Scalia. We are now even closer to the 2020 election — less than two months out — and I believe the same standard must apply.’
— Seung Min Kim (@seungminkim) September 20, 2020
In light of the statement from fellow Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) expressing the same position, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) can now afford to lose just one more vote, for a total of three defectors. If a fourth defector emerges, then that would leave McConnell with just 49 votes, since Republicans currently hold 53 Senate seats in total. With 49 votes, a pre-election Ginsburg replacement vote would be toast. In the event of a 50-50 tie, Vice President Mike Pence — who would obviously support the Republican position — would cast the tiebreaker.
It’s hardly a given that a Trump nominee to replace Ginsburg will even be brought up for a vote by the full Senate before Election Day. The confirmation process would need to move with a speed among the fastest confirmations in history in order to reach that point of a pre-Election Day vote. President Trump, for his part, has insisted that the process for replacing Ginsburg should move forward “without delay,” and McConnell has insisted that Trump’s imminent nominee will get a vote in the Senate.
Although McConnell led the opposition to confirming then-President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee in 2016, citing the imminent election, he claims that this situation is different. He says that the original “principle” was that Supreme Court seats shouldn’t be filled in presidential election years if the White House and Senate are controlled by different political parties. Since that’s not the case at present, he takes the circumstances as a green light to rush ahead without hearing from the American people via the upcoming presidential election results.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) seems like another potential defector from the main Republican Party rush to try and confirm a Ginsburg successor as quickly as possible. He was the only Republican Senator who voted to convict Trump of either of the charges against him at the president’s Senate impeachment trial earlier this year, and he has frequently condemned some of Trump’s basic approaches to elements of governing. Romney even participated in a Black Lives Matter march in D.C. around the time that Trump threatened to send troops into the streets.
Ginsburg told her granddaughter prior to her death that she wished that her seat would not be filled until after the next election. McConnell’s statement insisting that Trump’s nominee would get a Senate vote came out within hours of the announcement of Ginsburg’s death, however.