The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Friday evening sparked immediate speculation whether President Trump — weeks before he faces the voters in what is universally considered a close race — will successfully get a nominee to succeed her through the Senate.
The major problem facing Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R.-Kentucky, is whether four of the 53 Republican senators will bolt to the 47 Democrats and thus deny confirmation to any Trump nominee.
Maine Sen. Susan Collins, facing a difficult re-election because of her vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the high court, could easily come out against a Trump nominee. Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who opposed Kavanaugh, could do the same.
Other GOP senators considered possible "nos" to a Trump justice are Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Ben Sasse of Nebraska, both of whom have made it clear they are no friends of the president.
Republican senators who oppose a Trump nomination are likely to argue they are following the precedent set by McConnell in 2016 when he would not hold hearings on Barack Obama's choice of Judge Merrick Garland to succeed the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. (After Obama left office, Garland's nomination was withdrawn, whereupon Trump named Neil Gorsuch to the Scalia seat.)
Trump, the first president to have a Supreme Court vacancy in a year he was seeking re-election since Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940, is expected to name his choice for the high court as early as next week.
Betting is strong he will name a woman and among the names mentioned are those of Judges Amy Barrett of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, Joan Larsen of the 6th Circuit, and Britt Grant of the 11th Circuit.
A devout Roman Catholic and Notre Dame graduate, Barrett, 48, came under strong liberal fire for her faith during her confirmation hearings for the Appellate Court in 2017. She has also stated she does not consider precedent sacrosanct, a sign critics fear she would overturn the pro-abortion Roe v. Wade ruling of 1973.
Trump reportedly wanted to name her to the court seat that eventually went to Kavanaugh in '19 but didn't because of the likelihood of a rancorous confirmation battle.
Larsen, 51, is a former University of Michigan law professor and onetime law clerk for Scalia. Grant, 42, is a past Georgia solicitor general and state supreme court justice and was a clerk for Kavanaugh when he was an appellate judge.
Regarding the blocking of Obama nominee Garland in 2016, a statement from McConnell explained that "[i]n the last midterm election before Justice Scalia's death in 2016, Americans elected a Republican Senate majority because we pledged to check and balance the last days of a lame-duck president's second term. We kept our promise. Since the 1880s, no Senate has confirmed an opposite-party president's Supreme Court nominee in a presidential election year."
By contrast, in McConnell's words, "Americans reelected our majority in 2016 and expanded it in 2018 because we pledged to work with President Trump and support his agenda, particularly his outstanding appointments to the federal judiciary."
"Once again, we will keep our promise," he concluded, "President Trump's nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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