Sen. Lisa Murkowski released statement Sunday saying she opposes voting on President Donald Trump’s nominee to replace Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg before the election. “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,” Murkowski said. The Alaska senator pointed out that she opposed taking up the nomination to replace Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016 and “we are now even closer to the 2020 election” so “the same standard must apply.”
Murkowski released her statement a day after Sen. Susan Collins became the first Republican senator to oppose an effort to quickly confirm President Donald Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court. Collins though was a bit more specific in her objection, saying that the winner of the November election should be the one to nominate Ginsburg’s replacement. But she also made clear she does not oppose the Senate Judiciary Committee starting the process of reviewing the credentials of the nominee to the Supreme Court 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,” Collins 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.”
Murkowski and Collins both appear to leave themselves some wiggle room in their respective statements. Murkowski specifically made a point of saying the vote on Ginsburg’s replacement should not occur before Election Day, but Republicans have made clear that the vote could take place in the lame-duck period after voters cast their ballots. Trump pretty much acknowledged that during a rally in North Carolina on Saturday. “We have plenty of time. There’s a lot of time. You’re talking about Jan. 20,” he said. They also did not spell out how they would vote if the nomination does reach the floor of the Senate. Leaving aside the different interpretations of their statements, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can only afford to lose two more Republican senators and still get Trump’s nominee approved. In a sign that he is worried about possible defections, McConnell has called on his Republican colleagues to keep their “powder dry” if they are asked about voting to fill the vacant seat. Anyone who speaks too soon may come to regret their decision, McConnell warned.