Where Key GOP Senators Stand On An Election Year SCOTUS Vacancy

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-IA speaks to Chairman Lindsey Graham(R), R-SC, during a a Senate Judiciary Committee nomination hearing for Justin Reed Walker to be United States Circuit Judge for the District of Columbia Cir... Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-IA speaks to Chairman Lindsey Graham(R), R-SC, during a a Senate Judiciary Committee nomination hearing for Justin Reed Walker to be United States Circuit Judge for the District of Columbia Circuit, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, May 6, 2020. (Photo by Caroline Brehman / POOL / AFP) (Photo by CAROLINE BREHMAN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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September 18, 2020 10:16 p.m.

In the four years since they stole a Supreme Court pick from President Barack Obama, several Republican senators have spoken about what they might do if a similar situation arose again in a future election year. With the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, that scenario is now upon us.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) can only afford to lose three Republicans before the Senate’s balance tips against him.

Here’s what other key Republican senators have said about filling a vacancy on the court just before an election

Lindsey Graham (R-SC)

During a March 2016 hearing, Graham said Republicans were setting a “precedent” by refusing to consider a nominee from then-President Barack Obama to fill the vacancy created by Justice Antonin Scalia’s passing. As the Senate Judiciary Committee’s current chairman, Graham hypothetically could play the role that former chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) played in 2016, by refusing to hold hearings on a nominee.

“I want you to use my words against me: If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination.”

He added: “We’re setting a precedent here today, Republicans are, that in the last year — at least of a lame duck eight-year term, I would say it’s going to be a four-year term — that you’re not going to fill a vacancy at the Supreme Court based on what we’re doing here today.”

Graham reiterated that point in 2018. But by May of this year, he had changed his tune, telling Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren that “Merrick Garland was a different situation.”

“You had the president of one party nominating, and you had the Senate in the hands of the other party,” he said. “A situation where you’ve got them both would be different. I don’t want to speculate, but I think appointing judges is a high priority for me in 2020.”

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME)

Just days ago, Collins said “I think that’s too close, I really do” when asked if she would fill a Supreme Court seat in October, The New York Times’ Jonathan Martin reported after Ginsburg’s death Friday.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)

Murkowski on Friday — before news broke of Ginsburg’s passing — said “I would not vote to confirm a Supreme Court nominee. We are 50 some days away from an election.”

That echoes what she said last month: that it would be a “double standard” to fill a vacancy so close to Election Day and therefore that she “would not support it.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)

Back when he was still serving as Judiciary Committee chairman, in October 2018, Grassley said the committee wouldn’t consider a Supreme Court nominee in 2020. 

“If I’m chairman they won’t take it up,” he said during an interview on Fox News. 

“No, because I pledged that in 2016, that if the ball’s the same as it is,” he added. “Now, if somebody else is the chairman of the committee, they’ll have to decide for themselves. But that’s a decision I made a long time ago.”

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT)

Asked early last month by The Hill whether Republicans should hold open a Supreme Court vacancy this year, Romney declined to say.

“I’m not at a point where I have something to say,” he told a reporter.

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