The Slatest

McConnell Has a Message for Republicans on Court Vacancy: “Keep Your Powder Dry”

McConnell wearing a mask
Mitch McConnell on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is calling on his fellow Republican lawmakers to keep their “powder dry” and not rush to say whether someone nominated by President Donald Trump to fill Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat should get a vote. Anyone who rushes to say a Trump nominee shouldn’t get a vote may well come to regret it, warned McConnell in a “Dear Colleagues” letter to the Senate Republican caucus. “Over the coming days, we are all going to 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 all to keep your powder dry,” McConnell wrote. “This is not the time to prematurely lock yourselves into a position you may later regret.”

McConnell publicly said that Trump’s nominee will get a vote in the Senate. But two Republican senators—Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski—have already said they do not support voting for a nominee so close to an election. Others have also made similar statements. Sen. Lindsey Graham, for example, said he wouldn’t support voting for a nominee in the last year of Trump’s term. He isn’t alone. Sen. Chuck Grassley told reporters in July he wouldn’t support holding a hearing on a candidate in the middle of an election. Whether they will hold to those ideas remains a mystery.

Republicans currently hold a 53–47 majority in the Senate. One key question is whether McConnell would push for the vote to take place before the election or if he would wait for the lame-duck session. If he waits until after the election, the numbers could be even tighter for Republicans because of Arizona. The Democratic candidate, Mark Kelly, is seen as the favorite to win the Arizona Senate race to fill the final two years of late Sen. John McCain’s term. The winner of that election could be sworn in as early as Nov. 30.