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Politics The senators to watch during Supreme Court nomination fight

10:31  20 september  2020
10:31  20 september  2020 Source:   cbsnews.com

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There's no question that President Trump will name a new Supreme Court justice to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg. "We have this obligation, without delay!" he tweeted Saturday. Whether he'll be able to put his third justice on the high court will depend on the Senate.

a large white building: Supreme Court exterior © Mark Wilson / Getty Images Supreme Court exterior

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed that Mr. Trump's nominee would get a vote on the Senate floor, but the Senate is narrowly divided, with 53 Republicans and 47 Democrats, and if all the Democrats stand together in opposition, should four Republicans join them, the seat will have to wait until next year to be filled.

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So far, two have said they do not support voting on a nominee before the election.

Here are the senators to watch as the battle over the nomination proceeds.

Susan Collins

The day after Ginsburg's death, Maine Senator Susan Collins said in a statement she doesn't support a vote before the election. "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 wrote. "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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Collins, a moderate four-term senator running for her fifth term in November, has been trailing Democratic opponent Sara Gideon in September polling.

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Lisa Murkowski

On Friday, before Ginsburg's death was announced, the Alaska senator told Alaska Public Media, "I would not vote to confirm a Supreme Court nominee. We are 50-some days away from an election."

Cory Gardner

The Colorado Republican has not said whether he'll support a vote on a nominee before the election. In 2016, he declined to support President Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, arguing over 7 months before the election that it was "too soon" and the American people should weigh in on the decision.

"Our next election is too soon and the stakes are too high," he said in a statement on March 6, 2016, continuing, "the American people deserve a role in this process as the next Supreme Court Justice will influence the direction of this country for years to come."

Gardner is facing a tough reelection race against former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. On Saturday, he declined to answer a question about whether he'd support filling the vacancy before the election, saying during a Q&A session with a group called Club 20, "[O]ut of decency and respect for this country, we need to make sure that we are giving time for personal reflection on this loss of an American icon."

"I hope that before the politics begin, because there will be plenty of time for that, that we have some time for this country to reflect on the legacy of a great woman who led to our nation's highest court, and the work that she has done for this nation whether you agree or not," Gardner said. "There is time for debate there is time for politics, but the time for now, is to pray for the family and to make sure that we keep their, their family in our hearts and prayers, as we mourn as a nation."

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  Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins oppose vote on Ruth Bader Ginsburg replacement before election Murkowski joins Sen. 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. 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.

Chuck Grassley

When Ginsburg announced in July that she would be undergoing treatment for a recurrence of cancer, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa said he would not recommend holding a hearing on a nominee in an election year. In 2016, Grassley chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee and used what he called the "Biden rule" to block Garland's nomination.

Grassley said that 2016 voters would be "denied a voice" if the Senate confirmed a new justice before the election.

Grassley is not up for reelection until 2022. But Iowa's other senator, Joni Ernst, who is also a Republican, is facing an unexpectedly tough reelection battle. She told Iowa PBS in July that she would support confirmation hearings on Mr. Trump's pick if a seat became vacant and an "appointment prior to the end of the year."

Mitt Romney

The GOP 2012 presidential nominee already broke ranks during the impeachment hearing when he was the only Republican willing to vote to convict Mr. Trump on one of the articles of impeachment, but he has not yet indicated whether he would support a Supreme Court nomination before the election.

Romney issued a statement on Friday after Ginsburg's death that did not mention the looming battle for her seat, but he did note her longtime friendship with conservative Justice Antonin Scalia.

"Justice Ginsburg served our nation with a deep reverence for the law and our Constitution," Romney said in a statement. "Her fight for women's equality inspired all women to pursue their dreams without limits, and her grit, character and sharp wit made her an iconic and inspirational jurist beloved by people young and old. The beautiful friendship she shared with the late Justice Scalia serves as a reminder to all Americans to treat each other with kindness and respect, despite our differences."

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Lamar Alexander

The moderate Tennessee Republican is not seeking reelection this year, and although he ultimately voted with the party against convicting Mr. Trump and against calling witnesses, he was one of a few Republicans who indicated he would vote for calling witnesses. However, Alexander is also one of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's best friends.

In 2016 he declined to support confirmation hearings or a vote on Garland's nomination, like many Republicans that the American people should be able to weigh in by way of the presidential election. "This debate is not about Judge Garland. It's about whether to give the American people a voice in the selection of the next Supreme Court justice," he said in a statement. He added, "I believe it is reasonable to give the American people a voice by allowing the next president to fill this lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court."

But Alexander also cut through the loftier explanation about allowing the people to have their say by noting that it's the party controlling the Senate that gets to decide, concluding his statement by saying, "Sen. McConnell is only doing what the Senate majority has the right to do and what Senate Democrat leaders have said they would do in similar circumstances."

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