Washington, DC (AP) - Four GOP defections could defeat a Supreme Court nomination, while a tie vote could be broken by Vice President Mike Pence.
Among the senators to watch are Republicans Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, and others.
Collins is in a tight race for her own reelection, as are several other GOP senators, including Cory Gardner in Colorado. Murkowski and Romney have been critical of Trump and protective of the institution of the Senate.
Some Republicans, including Collins and Murkowski, have suggested previously that hearings should wait if a seat were to open. And because the Arizona Senate race is a special election, that seat could be filled as early as November 30 — which would narrow the window for McConnell if the Democratic candidate, Mark Kelly, hangs onto his lead.
In a note to his GOP colleagues Friday night, McConnell urged them to “keep their powder dry” and not rush to declare a position on whether a Trump nominee should get a vote this year.
McConnell argued that there would be enough time to fill the vacancy and he restated his argument that the 2016 Senate precedent — in which a GOP-held Senate blocked Obama’s election-year nomination — did not establish a rule that applies to the Ginsburg case. Under McConnell, the Senate changed the confirmation rules to allow for a simple majority.
The next pick could shape important decisions beyond abortion rights, including any legal challenges that may stem from the 2020 election. In the interim, if the court were to take cases with eight justices, 4-4 ties would revert the decision to a lower court; for instance, the Affordable Care Act could then be struck down by a lower Texas court. The 2018 hearings on Trump’s second pick, now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh, turned into a bitter partisan battle after sexual assault allegations were made.
Biden has promised to nominate a Black woman to the high court if given the chance. He has said he’s also working on a list of potential nominees, but the campaign has given no indication that it will release names before the election.