Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said Tuesday that he supports the Senate voting on a Supreme Court nominee ahead of the November election, clearing the path for Republicans to solidify the court’s conservative majority.
“The Constitution gives the President the power to nominate and the Senate the authority to provide advice and consent on Supreme Court nominees,” Romney said in a statement. “Accordingly, I intend to follow the Constitution and precedent in considering the President’s nominee. If the nominee reaches the Senate floor, I intend to vote based upon their qualifications.”
Republicans now appear to have enough votes to move forward with a Trump nominee, even before one had been formally announced by the White House.
Romney said his decision “is not the result of a subjective test of ‘fairness’ which, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder,” and argued “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.”
Only two Republican senators have called for a delay in filling the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat: Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, both moderates who have a record of sometimes breaking with their party’s leadership.
With the GOP holding a 53-47 majority in the upper chamber, Democrats need at least two more Republicans to join them to stop a quick Supreme Court confirmation ― an unlikely scenario.
Collins said the nomination should be held for whichever candidate wins the presidential election, as was done in 2016 after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Murkowski said she wouldn’t support confirming a new justice until after the election ― leaving open the possibility of action on the vacancy in the lame-duck Congress.
Although Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) hasn’t laid out a specific timeline, President Donald Trump is pushing for a vote on his nominee before Election Day, Nov. 3. He said on Monday that he could unveil his pick to replace Ginsburg, who died on Friday, as early as this week.
“I think Susan Collins is very badly hurt by her statement. ... People are not going to take this,” Trump said Monday in an interview on “Fox & Friends,” taking aim at one of the Senate’s most vulnerable incumbents who is seeking reelection this year.
The president rejected the notion that moving forward with a nomination before Election Day would harm the campaigns of GOP senators like Collins and Cory Gardner of Colorado.
“I think it’s going to help Cory,” Trump said, describing the senator as “loyal to the party” and “loyal to his state.”
Gardner, who has been a reliable vote for Trump in the Senate, said Monday that he would vote to confirm a Trump nominee for SCOTUS.
Most Republican senators made clear over the weekend that they wanted to move quickly to replace Ginsburg despite having previously said that Supreme Court vacancies should not be filled during a presidential election year. Confirming Trump’s nominee would ensure a 6-3 conservative majority among the justices.
Earlier this year, Romney was the only GOP senator to break with his party and vote to convict Trump in his impeachment trial for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress related to the president’s efforts to pressure Ukraine into investigating Joe Biden. The conservative senator and 2012 GOP presidential nominee has been an outspoken critic of Trump and Republican-led investigations into Biden.
“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,” Romney told reporters on Tuesday. “I know a lot of people are saying, ‘Gosh we don’t want that change.’ I understand the energy associated with that perspective.”
“But its also appropriate for a nation that is, if you will, center-right to have a court which reflects center-right points of view which are again not changing the law from what it states but instead following the law and the constitution,” he added.