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President Trump said Saturday that Senate Republicans have an “obligation” to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court left by Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death “without delay.”
.@GOP We were put in this position of power and importance to make decisions for the people who so proudly elected us, the most important of which has long been considered to be the selection of United States Supreme Court Justices. We have this obligation, without delay!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 19, 2020
Trump’s statement comes after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed to hold a floor vote on the president’s nominee just hours after Ginsburg’s death was announced Friday night.
“The Senate and the nation mourn the sudden passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the conclusion of her extraordinary American life,” McConnell said in a statement.
“In the last midterm election before Justice Scalia’s death in 2016, Americans elected a Republican Senate majority because we pledged to check and balance the last days of a lame-duck president’s second term. We kept our promise,” McConnell continued. “Since the 1880s, no Senate has confirmed an opposite-party president’s Supreme Court nominee in a presidential election year.”
McConell added that “by contrast, Americans reelected our majority in 2016 and expanded it in 2018 because we pledged to work with President Trump and support his agenda, particularly his outstanding appointments to the federal judiciary.”
“Once again, we will keep our promise,” he said. “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”
Notably, McConnell did not specify whether the vote would take place ahead of the November presidential election, which is just 44 days away, or after the election during what may be the final months of a lame-duck administration.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Friday night that the vacancy should not be filled until after the election, arguing that the American people should be given the opportunity to affect the direction of the court.
“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice,” Schumer tweeted Friday. “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden echoed Schumer in a statement released Friday night, in which he cited the precedent set by McConnell in 2016 when he refused to allow a floor vote on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee following the death of conservative justice Antonin Scalia.
“There is no doubt, let me be clear, that the voters should pick the president, and the president should pick the justice for the Senate to consider,” Biden told reporters Friday night.
“This was the position the Republican Senate took in 2016, when there were nearly 9 months before the election. That is the position the United States Senate must take now, when the election is less than two months away,” Biden added in a statement released later in the evening. “We are talking about the Constitution and the Supreme Court. That institution should not be subject to politics.”
McConnell has said that the precedent of refusing to vote on a nominee during a presidential election year does not apply when one party has unified control of the White House and the Senate.
In order to block Trump’s nominee, Democrats must rely on four Senate Republicans to defect.
Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who is locked in a tough reelection battle, has said recently that she would not be inclined to suuport the confirmation of a Supreme Court nominee so close to the election.
“I think that’s too close — I really do,” Collins said earlier this month when asked if she would support the confirmation of a nominee.
Republican senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina — the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee — and Charles Grassley of Iowa have also said they wouldn’t support filling a vacancy so close to the election, but it is unclear whether they will stick to that position now that a vacancy has opened.