Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said Sunday that she opposes the Senate voting on a Supreme Court nominee ahead of the November election, reiterating comments she made hours before Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death was announced on Friday.
“For weeks, I have stated that I would not support taking up a potential Supreme Court vacancy this close to the election,” Murkowski said in a statement Sunday. “Sadly, what was then a hypothetical is now our reality, but my position has not changed.”
Murkowski joins Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) in breaking with their party’s leadership on the matter. President Donald Trump and many of his Republican allies have called for the vacant seat created by Ginsburg’s death to be filled quickly. Confirming Trump’s nominee would ensure a 6-3 conservative majority among the justices.
Hours after Ginsburg’s death Friday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R- Ky.) vowed to hold a vote on Trump’s nominee. Trump said Saturday that he intends to nominate a woman for the position this week.
Democrats have accused Republicans pushing for a swift confirmation of Trump’s nominee of being hypocrites. In 2016, McConnell blocked a vote on Merrick Garland, then-President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee to fill the vacancy created by Justice Antonin Scalia’s death.
McConnell had said at the time that it was too close to the presidential election to confirm a new justice. Scalia died 269 days before the 2016 presidential election. Ginsburg died 46 days before the 2020 presidential election.
“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,” Murkowski said in her statement Sunday. “We are now even closer to the 2020 election — less than two months out — and I believe the same standard must apply.”
It’s unclear whether Collins and Murkowski would vote to oppose Trump’s nominee should McConnell bring a vote to the floor ahead of the election.
Neither Collins nor Murkowski has spoken out against the Senate holding a vote during the lame-duck session should Trump win reelection. It’s possible Americans could vote out the Senate’s Republican majority in November. But if McConnell were to hold a vote after the election but before the new Congress is sworn in, Republicans could still hold 53 of the 100 seats and have a strong chance of confirming Trump’s nominee.
If Democrat Mark Kelly wins Arizona’s special election in November, he could be seated in the Senate as early as Nov. 30, according to The New York Times. This would alter the makeup of the Senate to 52 Republicans, 46 Democrats and two independents (both of whom caucus with Democrats).
This story has been updated to note that Democrats could take another seat in the Senate as early as Nov. 30, narrowing the GOP’s majority in the chamber.