GOP secures support to act on Supreme Court vacancy

ROMNEY: Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) arrives at the weekly Senate Republican policy luncheon at Hart Senate Office Building on Sept. 9 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Alex Wong/Getty Images/Tribune News Service

WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans have enough votes to consider and likely confirm President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee after Utah Sen. Mitt Romney said on Tuesday the president has the right to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg even as the presidential election is underway in some states.

Romney was one of the last Republican holdouts to announce whether he would consider voting for a Trump nominee, despite Senate Republicans' refusal nine months before the 2016 election to consider President Barack Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland after the death of Antonin Scalia.

Trump said he would announce his selection – he said it would be a woman – on Saturday.

Republicans said they would decide whether to vote "yes" based on her qualifications. But with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell holding 51 votes from Republicans eager to put another conservative on the high court, regardless of the election, confirmation is viewed as most likely barring a disqualifying surprise.

Only two Republicans – Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine – have said they will not consider supporting a nominee before Election Day, Nov. 3. Two more Republicans would have had to defect for Democrats to have a realistic chance of blocking Trump's nominee.

Republican leaders have not yet announced if the vote would be held before or after the election and suggested that decision would be made once a confirmation hearing is held.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Monday on Fox News that he expected a preelection vote. "We've got the votes to confirm the judge, the justice, on the floor of the Senate before the election," the South Carolina Republican said, "and that's what's coming."

On Tuesday, he said he expected to hold a confirmation hearing. Earlier, Trump had retweeted a report that conservative broadcaster Rush Limbaugh called for the Senate to skip a hearing to hasten a vote.

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