The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday gives President Trump the opportunity to solidify the high court’s former 5-4 conservative majority — and some Republican senators have said they’re eager to help him do it, New York Post reports.
Ginsburg died at age 87 due to complications of metastatic pancreatic cancer.
When Ginsburg was hospitalized in May, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) said the GOP was ready to act if a vacancy opened up before the Nov. 3 presidential election.
“We’re going to fill it,” Barrasso, the No. 3 Republican in the Senate, told Politico at the time.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a member of the Judiciary Committee, also said Republicans wouldn’t shy away from a bruising confirmation battle with Senate Democrats.
“If you thought the [Brett] Kavanaugh hearing was contentious this would probably be that on steroids,” Cornyn told Politico. “Nevertheless, if the president makes a nomination then it’s our responsibility to take it up.”
Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-South Dakota), went even further in July, saying the Senate would vote to fill a vacancy following the election, regardless of the outcome.
“That would be part of this year. We would move on it,” he told CNN.
Since then, however, two Republican senators — Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Chuck Grassley of Iowa — have said they opposed taking up any potential nomination before next year.
Grassley, a Judiciary Committee member, added that he “couldn’t move forward with it” were he still the committee chairman.
The GOP has a 53-47 majority in the Senate, meaning one more Republican — such as Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who cast the lone Republican vote to convict Trump during his impeachment trial — could break ranks and the President could still win approval of a nominee with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a 50-50 tie.
Romney’s office on Friday night reportedly shot down a rumor that he was committed to not confirming a nominee until after Inauguration Day next year.
But the races for seven Republican-held seats are considered toss-ups or worse for the GOP, according to the Cook Political Report. That could make it tough for any of those lawmakers to cast a controversial vote were it to be held before Election Day.
One of them, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who is in a tough reelection battle, steered clear of the thorny issue in a statement hailing Ginsburg as a “trailblazer for women’s rights, a fierce champion for equality, and an extremely accomplished American who broke countless barriers in the field of law.”
“I had the great honor of getting to know Justice Ginsburg personally when the women Senators twice had dinner with her and former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor,” Collins added. “She has been a role model to generations of women, and her legacy will live on in the countless people she inspired.”
Meanwhile, Ginsburg’s death came just nine days after Trump added 20 names to his list of potential Supreme Court nominees, in addition to 24 that remained on the roster he last revised in 2017.
But one of the new picks, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), also a member of the Judiciary Committee, quickly took himself out of the running.
“I want to be in the political fight. I want to be fighting to nominate and confirm three, four, five principled, constitutionalist justices,” he told Fox News.