Sen. Lisa Murkowski definitively said Sunday she does not support voting on a nominee to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court before the Nov. 3 election, repeating a belief she had expressed previously when the question was theoretical.
“For weeks, I have stated that I would not support taking up a potential Supreme Court vacancy this close to the election. Sadly, what was then a hypothetical is now our reality, but my position has not changed,” the Alaska Republican said in a statement.
Hours before Ginsburg’s death was announced, Murkowski told Alaska Public Media on Friday she would not vote on a nominee so close to an election. She cited the decision in 2016 not to move forward with a vote on Merrick Garland, who was nominated by then-President Barack Obama in March, because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell thought it should be left up to the voters in November.
“The closer you get to an election, that argument becomes even more important,” she said.
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“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 Sunday. “We are now even closer to the 2020 election – less than two months out – and I believe the same standard must apply.”
McConnell, R-Ky., has said the Senate would hold a full vote on President Donald Trump’s nominee. Trump has said he plans to offer up a nominee soon.
Murkowski joins Sen. Susan Collins of Maine as the only two Senate Republicans to explicitly reject the idea of voting on a nominee before the election. Two more GOP senators would have to join them to give Democrats the 51 votes needed to block a potential nominee.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., made it clear Sunday he would not be joining Murkowski and Collins in their dissent. Some had speculated that Alexander, who is retiring, might also call his colleagues to wait for the election.
“No one should be surprised that a Republican Senate majority would vote on a Republican President’s Supreme Court nomination, even during a presidential election year,” Alexander said. “The Constitution gives senators the power to do it. The voters who elected them expect it.
“Going back to George Washington, the Senate has confirmed many nominees to the Supreme Court during a presidential election year. It has refused to confirm several when the President and Senate majority were of different parties. Senator McConnell is only doing what Democrat leaders have said they would do if the shoe were on the other foot.”
On Saturday, Collins – a moderate from Maine who is locked in a tight battle for reelection – said “in order for the American people to have faith in their elected officials, we must act fairly and consistently – no matter which political party is in power.”
She said Trump has the constitutional authority to put forward a nominee and she would have no problem with the Senate Judiciary Committee beginning the review process.
“Given the proximity of the presidential election, however, I do not believe that the Senate should vote on the nominee prior to the election,” she said. “In fairness to the American people, who will either be re-electing the president or selecting a new one, the decision on a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court should be made by the President who is elected on November 3rd.”
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