Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) endorsed the whole idea of a President Donald Trump on Saturday. Speaking at the annual North Carolina GOP State Convention, Burr said he looked forward to supporting Trump’s appointment of not just one, but three conservative Supreme Court justices.
“It is absolutely crucial to our future that we elect a Republican that’s going to be Donald Trump, and we’re going to be the ones that put three Supreme Court justices in office,” Burr said.
He added, “There’s a point in time where having our preferences is no longer an option. And getting behind a candidate is absolutely essential.”
Burr, like the vast majority of other GOP senators, opposes holding any hearings or votes on Judge Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee. Their argument isn't that Garland is unqualified, but that they believe the next president should get to pick someone to fill the high court's empty seat. Of course, they're hoping that the next president will be a Republican.
"There's no problem with Trump appointing people to the Supreme Court," Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, told The Associated Press on Monday.
Grassley had previously noted that it's a "gamble" to let Trump choose a nominee.
Having Trump as their party's nominee has put some of these senators -- who aren't endorsing him just yet -- in a bind. Many of them are also facing tough re-election races where standing with Trump may not be the best way to win over general election voters.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), for example, is in the midst of one of the closest re-election contests in the country. She's not going to be voting for Obama's Supreme Court pick, but she's also keeping Trump at arm's length.
"As she's said from the beginning, Kelly plans to support the [GOP's presidential] nominee," Liz Johnson, Ayotte's campaign spokeswoman, told the New Hampshire Union Leader last week. "As a candidate herself, she hasn't and isn't planning to endorse anyone this cycle."
Democrats are also eyeing Burr's Senate seat, with former North Carolina state Rep. Deborah Ross (D) running not far behind in the polls. So even Burr, with his full-throated endorsement of Trump, may not want to be seen with him on the campaign trail this summer.
When a reporter with the Raleigh-based News & Observer asked the senator on Saturday whether he'll be campaigning for the GOP nominee, Burr replied, "I'm going to be focused on my own re-election."
Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist