Moderate Senators Silent for Now on When to Vote for Ginsburg’s Replacement

September 19, 2020 Updated: September 19, 2020

The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg leaves a hole in the nation’s highest court that leading Republicans are keen to fill before the upcoming election, leading to fevered speculation regarding the position of moderates who could swing the vote one way or another.

Senators narrowly confirmed Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s pick to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, in 2018 after a tense battle. The confirmation was in serious doubt as moderate senators including Susan Collins (R-Maine), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) weighed whether to back Kavanaugh amid sexual assault allegations.

Collins became the deciding vote when she took the Senate floor and denounced a confirmation process that she called “a caricature of a gutter-level political campaign.”

Collins has thus far declined to say whether she’d support filling Ginsburg’s seat before Nov. 3 or inauguration day.

A spokesman for the senator declined to answer the Portland Press Herald, a Maine newspaper, when asked. Her office didn’t respond to an inquiry from The Epoch Times.

Flake is no longer in office but his role has been filled by Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), the only Republican to vote to impeach or convict President Donald Trump.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah)
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) speaks on the Senate floor about the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, on Feb. 5, 2020. (Senate Television via AP)

While many senators late Friday issued statements clearly outlining their support or opposition of a quick vote for the vacant Supreme Court seat, others didn’t mention it at all—including Romney, Manchin, and Murkowski.

Sens. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.)—other potential swing votes—have also not stated their positions.

Their offices didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Liz Johnson, a Romney spokeswoman, said on Twitter a claim that the senator has committed to not confirming a nominee until after inauguration day is “grossly false.”

Some senators are facing serious challenges this election, including Jones, Gardner, and Collins. Others, like Alexander, are retiring.

Collins said this month, prior to Ginsburg’s death, that she would not support replacing a vacancy in October.

“I think that’s too close,” she told The New York Times.

Murkowski earlier this year expressed the opinion that a vacancy shouldn’t be filled if one arose before Nov. 3.

Other Republicans swiftly staked out their positions on Friday.

Epoch Times Photo
Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) speaks to reporters in Washington on Aug. 6, 2020. (Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images)

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), in his first term, announced his unequivocal support for moving to confirm Ginsburg’s replacement.

“It would be irresponsible to allow an extended vacancy on the Supreme Court,” Scott said in a statement. “I believe that President Trump’s nominee should get a vote in the U.S. Senate.”

Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) also said they believe Trump’s nominee should get a vote.

Top Democrat senators oppose voting on Ginsburg’s replacement before the election.

Republicans control the Senate with 53 members, compared to 45 Democrats and two Independents who often side with the latter.

Judicial confirmations only require a simple majority, instead of a 60-vote threshold.

Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) eliminated the threshold in 2013 for most judicial nominations. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) extended it to Supreme Court nominations in 2017.

McConnell, who announced publicly Friday that the Senate would vote before the election on whomever Trump picks to replace Ginsburg, wrote in letter to colleagues leaked to reporters that they would “come under tremendous pressure from the press to announce how we will handle the coming nomination.”

“For those of you who are unsure how to answer, or for those inclined to oppose giving a nominee a vote, I urge you to keep your powder dry,” he added. “This is not the time to prematurely lock yourselves into a position you may later regret.

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