US elections: Republicans secure vote for a new Supreme Court nominee
Republicans have secured the numbers needed to ensure that President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee will face a confirmation vote in the Senate.
Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah said Tuesday he supports voting to fill the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat on the Supreme Court, all but ensuring President Donald Trump has the backing to push his choice to confirmation over Democratic objections that it’s too close to the November election.
“I recognize that we, we may have a court which has more of a conservative bent than it’s had over the last few decades,” Romney told reporters on Capitol Hill. “But my liberal friends have over many decades gotten very used to the idea of having a liberal court. And that’s not written in the stars.”
Democrats argued there should be no confirmation in an election year, pointing to hypocrisy in Republicans who are trying to rush through a pick so close to the election after McConnell led the GOP in refusing to vote on a nominee of President Barack Obama in February 2016, long before that year’s election.
Romney dismissed that argument, saying “it was not unfair” of Republicans to refuse to consider Obama’s choice of Merrick Garland.
A bitter political battle
As president Trump says he will announce his chosen nominee on Saturday, the move guarantees a bitter political battle going into November’s vote.
Supreme Court justices are nominated to the bench by the US president, but must be approved by the Senate.
Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate, and the Democrats would need four GOP defections to block consideration.
Although they hold a slim majority with 53 seats, two centrist Republican senators – Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska – said they were sceptical of confirming a lifetime judicial appointment in an election year.
Since the death of Justice Ginsburg, a liberal stalwart, Mr Trump has been given the chance to cement a rightward ideological tilt of the nine-member court by replacing her with a conservative.
However, in a statement released on Tuesday, Mr Romney said he would give Mr Trump’s nominee a hearing, citing “historical precedent”.
“If the nominee reaches the Senate floor, I intend to vote based upon their qualifications,” Romney said. Even if he and the other two should eventually vote against Trump’s nominee, Vice-President Mike Pence could break a 50-50 tie in Trump’s favour.
“My decision regarding a Supreme Court nomination is not the result of a subjective test of ‘fairness’ which, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder, it is based on the immutable fairness of following the law, which in this case is the Constitution and precedent. The historical precedent of election year nominations is that the Senate generally does not confirm an opposing party’s nominee but does confirm a nominee of its own.” he said.