It’s becoming increasingly clear that Republicans are closing ranks in support of confirming President Donald Trump’s upcoming nominee to the Supreme Court. The remaining issue may only be the timing, i.e., whether hearings and a confirmation vote can be completed prior to the November 3 election, or will take place afterward during the lame duck session.
“We’ve got the votes to confirm Justice Ginsburg’s replacement before the election,” Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said on the Fox News “Hannity” show on Monday. “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. Now, that’s the constitutional process.”
Graham, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee that will be charged with holding hearings on any nominee the president submits, famously said in 2018 that if an opening on the Supreme Court occurred in the last year of Trump’s term of office, Republicans would wait and leave the position open until the next Congress was seated. But subsequent events irrevocably altered his viewpoint.
“After Kavanaugh, everything changed with me,” Graham said. “They are not going to intimidate me, [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell, or anybody else.”
The confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, which took place in the fall of 2018, served up perhaps the ugliest moments in Senate confirmation history, with charges of gang rape and sexual assault leveled against Kavanaugh by Democrats. Kavanaugh was ultimately confirmed by a vote of 50-48.
Graham, a Judiciary committee member at the time, blew up in the televised hearings at Democrat committee members, in a moment largely credited with turning the tide toward Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
Although a couple Senate Republicans, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, have indicated that the next president should fill the vacancy on the high court created by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, they have not been joined by any other Republicans, who enjoy a 53-47 majority in the upper chamber. Even Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, who has a history of clashing with President Trump, indicated his support for a confirmation vote, saying that it is “appropriate for a nation that is … center-right to have a court which reflects center-right points of view.”
The president has said he intends to nominate a woman from his shortlist on Saturday, after the memorials for Justice Ginsburg are over. The three names in the running at the moment appear to be federal appeals court judges Amy Coney Barrett, Barbara Lagoa and Allison Jones Rushing.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and other Democrat leaders have indicated that in the event Republicans go forward with confirming a Trump nominee, then “nothing is off the table” in the future should Democrats take the White House and both houses of Congress. The types of payback being talked about include such things as “packing the court” by expanding the number of justices from nine to a larger number and adding Democrat appointees, as well as eliminating the filibuster for legislation.
Photo from CQ-Roll Call/REUTERS
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