It Looks Like Trump Just Got the Votes to Replace RBG

Mitt Romney announced Tuesday morning that he would support giving Trump's nominee a vote on the Senate floor.
September 22, 2020, 2:40pm
Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Sipa USA(Sipa via AP Images)
Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Sipa USA(Sipa via AP Images)

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It looks like President Trump will have the votes to ram through a replacement for Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court before Inauguration Day.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) announced Tuesday morning that he would support giving Trump’s nominee a vote on the Senate floor, making him the latest key Senate Republican to back Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in their push to get a nominee confirmed before the end of Trump’s term.

"The Constitution gives the President the power to nominate and the Senate the authority to provide advice and consent on Supreme Court nominees. Accordingly, I intend to follow the Constitution and precedent in considering the President’s nominee. If the nominee reaches the Senate floor, I intend to vote based upon their qualifications," he said Tuesday morning in a written statement.

Romney joins the senators saying they’ll support a vote, a group that includes most of the Republicans facing tough Senate reelection fights — Sens. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) — as well as a handful of other institutional-minded moderates that Democrats had hoped might split with them, like Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.).

Senate Republicans can lose four votes and still confirm a justice, and only Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) have indicated they might not support a confirmation vote.

Romney’s announcement, coupled with Gardner’s decision on Thursday to back a vote even though he’s facing a tough reelection fight in a Democratic-leaning state, means that Republicans are all but guaranteed to give Trump’s nominee a vote. That could lock in conservative dominance of the Supreme Court for decades, confirming Trump’s third nominee (after Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch) and giving conservatives a 6-3 edge in the court’s partisan balance.

Trump has said he plans to name his nominee on Saturday, and GOP sources tell VICE News that conservative judge Amy Coney Barrett, a favorite of social conservatives and anti-abortion activists, is the frontrunner.

Barrett, a former Notre Dame University law school professor and a mother of seven kids, was nominated by Trump and confirmed to the federal court of appeals in 2017 after contentious hearings in which Democrats highlighted her unswerving social conservatism.

Even before Romney’s announcement, it looked likely that the GOP would have the votes.

“We’ve got the votes to confirm Justice Ginsburg’s replacement before the election,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Monday night on Fox News. “We’re going to move forward in the committee; we’re going to report the nomination out of the committee to the floor of the United States Senate so we can vote before the election.”

The biggest question now is when the vote will happen — before or after the election. Republicans have been looking at potentially holding hearings on Trump’s nominee before the election but waiting until after the election for a full floor vote, though that timing is still in flux. Unless something goes sideways with the nominee, Trump is all but certain to get a third nominee on the court before his term ends in January, in spite of widespread protestations by Democrats who say voters should decide which president gets to fill the lifetime appointment.

Cover: Flowers and a poster with an image of late Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg are placed outside the Supreme Court in Washington on September 21, 2020. Photo by Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Sipa USA(Sipa via AP Images)