WASHINGTON — Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska is the second senator to announce she won’t support replacing Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg before the 2020 election — narrowing, but not preventing, Republicans’ ability to push through President Donald Trump’s forthcoming Supreme Court pick.
“For weeks, I have stated I would not support taking up a potential Supreme Court vacancy this close to the election,” Murkowski said in a statement. "Sadly, what was then hypothetical is now our reality, but my position has not changed. I did not support taking up a nomination before the 2016 election to fill the vacancy created by the passing of Justice Scalia, we are now even closer to the 2020 election — less than two months out and I believe the same standard must apply."
Murkowski’s decision isn’t exactly a surprise. Before Ginsburg died, she had said that she believed that if a new vacancy on the Court occurred, it should not be filled prior to the election because “fair is fair.” In 2016, Senate Republicans led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to take up Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, citing the coming election. McConnell said Friday night soon after Ginsburg died that the Senate would take up Trump’s nominee, which is expected to come this week.
Murkowski’s statement came a day after Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican up for reelection, announced she believes the person who wins the presidential election in November should be able to nominate the justice who will replace Ginsburg.
Republicans have 53 votes in the Senate, so four Republicans would need to vote against the confirmation of a new justice for it to fail if all Democrats vote together. If the Senate ties on a nominee, Vice President Mike Pence would be able to break it.
There are still other Republicans who could still possibly split with their party on the confirmation fight.
Sen. Chuck Grassley reportedly said he “couldn’t move forward” with taking up a justice before the election, but has not confirmed his stance since the death of Ginsburg. And it’s currently unclear what senators like Sen. Mitt Romney, who broke with his party on Trump’s impeachment, and other Republicans in close elections like Sen. Cory Gardner will ultimately decide to do.
Many Senate Republicans have already announced they will support Trump and McConnell’s decision to move ahead in the confirmation process.