Republican plans to fill late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s vacated seat on the court got a shot in the arm Tuesday, thanks to a reversal in tone from GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
Murkowski appeared to backtrack on earlier statements in which she signaled she would be opposed to voting to confirm a nominee prior to the November election.
“For weeks, I have stated that I would not support taking up a potential Supreme Court vacancy this close to the election,” she said Sunday. “Sadly, what was then a hypothetical is now our reality, but my position has not changed.”
On Tuesday, however, Alaska Public Media reported the senator said she has now not ruled out voting to confirm Trump’s high court nominee.
“I know everybody wants to ask the question, ‘Will you confirm the nominee?'” Murkowski said outside the Capitol prior to a weekly Republican luncheon.
“We don’t have a nominee yet. You and I don’t know who that is. And so I can’t confirm whether or not I can confirm a nominee when I don’t know who the nominee is,” the senior senator from Alaska said.
She reiterated she did not support moving forward with a confirmation vote, but added, “Now, having said that, this process is moving forward with or without me.”
“I intend to follow the Constitution and precedent in considering the president’s nominee,” the Utah Republican said in a statement.
“If the nominee reaches the Senate floor, I intend to vote based upon their qualifications,” he added.
My statement regarding the current Supreme Court vacancy: pic.twitter.com/6YO0dPWWXc
— Senator Mitt Romney (@SenatorRomney) September 22, 2020
News that Murkowski might now be onboard offers the GOP a bit of buffer should a Republican waver on committing to give Trump’s Supreme Court nominee a vote.
Romney, for example, has been unreliable for Senate Republicans since being elected in 2018, and Democrats are sure to appeal to other Republican senators in their fight to prevent an election-year confirmation of a replacement for Ginsburg.
The reversal from Murkowski could prove an important one.
She said Friday, prior to Ginsburg’s death, that she would oppose voting to confirm a high court nominee during an election year.
Murkowski said in the interview published before news of Ginsburg’s death that she would be opposed to participating in such a vote so close to the election.
The senator said she would “not vote to confirm a Supreme Court nominee” when speaking with Alaska Public Media as it was “too close to an election” and “the people needed to decide.”
“We are 50-some days away from an election, and the good news for us is that all of our Supreme Court justices are in good health and doing their job. And we pray that they are able to continue that,” Murkowski said at the time, when the scenario was still hypothetical.
As of Wednesday, her vote would not be needed for Republicans to meet the 50-vote threshold to confirm whomever the president nominates to replace Ginsburg.
Trump has said he will announce his pick on Saturday at 5 p.m. ET at the White House.
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