Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said Tuesday that she would vote against President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee before Election Day, signaling Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) likely doesn’t need her vote to ensure the nominee is confirmed.
Collins’ pledge followed a statement she made Saturday, in which she said she opposes the Senate holding a confirmation vote ahead of the Nov. 3 election. Just hours after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died Friday, McConnell announced Trump’s nominee would receive a vote on the Senate floor.
Trump is expected to announce his nominee on Saturday, and has called for the confirmation vote to be held before Nov. 3.
“I made it very clear ... that I did not think there should be a vote prior to the election,” Collins told reporters Tuesday. “And if there is one, I would oppose the nominee, not because I might not support that nominee under normal circumstances, but we’re simply too close to the election, and in the interest of being fair to the American people and consistent.”
Democrats have accused Republicans of being hypocrites for pushing through a vote on Trump’s nominee ahead of Election Day this year after blocking a confirmation vote on Merrick Garland, then-President Barack Obama’s pick to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, eight months before the 2016 election.
The Republicans need a simple majority to confirm Trump’s nominee. The GOP holds 53 seats in the upper chamber, while Democrats hold 45. There are two independent senators who caucus with the Democrats.
If Collins follows through on her pledge, but all other Republican senators vote in favor of Trump’s nominee, the nominee will be confirmed.
Only a handful of Republican senators were considered to be potential swing votes in the Supreme Court confirmation vote, including Collins, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah and Cory Gardner of Colorado.
Gardner, who has been a reliable vote for Trump in the Senate, said Monday that he would vote to confirm a Trump nominee for the Supreme Court. Romney said Tuesday that he supports the Senate voting ahead of the November election, all but ensuring Republicans have enough votes to move forward with a Trump nominee.
So far, Collins and Murkowski are the only Republicans to publicly break with their party’s leadership on the timing of the vote. In a statement Sunday, Murkowski said she opposes “taking up a potential Supreme Court vacancy this close to the 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,” she said. “We are now even closer to the 2020 election — less than two months out — and I believe the same standard must apply.”
Murkowski has not said whether she would vote against Trump’s nominee should a confirmation vote be held before Election Day. Her office did not respond to a request for comment.
Collins’ vow to vote against Trump’s nominee before Election Day could be an attempt to woo some independent-minded voters in Maine, where she’s facing the toughest reelection battle of her career.
But the self-proclaimed moderate seems only to break from her party on major issues when McConnell has already secured the votes he needs. Her decision to stick with McConnell and Trump on key votes ― including voting for Trump’s tax bill in 2017, voting to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court in 2018, and voting to acquit Trump during the impeachment trial earlier this year ― has mobilized a wave of voters against her.
And despite identifying as “pro-choice,” Collins has voted to confirm dozens of Trump’s judicial nominees who have signaled they oppose abortion.
Igor Bobic contributed reporting.
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