Senator Susan Collins of Maine became the first Republican to say that she would not support holding a confirmation vote to fill the open seat on the Supreme Court left vacant by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She said Saturday that she does “not believe that the Senate should vote on the nominee prior to the election.”
“In order for the American people to have faith in their elected officials, we must act fairly and consistently — no matter which political party is in power,” Collins said in a statement, indirectly referring to 2016, when Republicans blocked President Obama’s nominee from being confirmed to the court because it was an election year. “President Trump has the constitutional authority to make a nomination to fill the Supreme Court vacancy, and I would have no objection to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s beginning the process of reviewing his nominee’s credentials.”
Shortly before Mr. Trump left the White House for a campaign rally in North Carolina, he said he “totally” disagrees with Collins.
“We won,” Mr. Trump said. “We have an obligation to voters. Not the way I read it. But if that’s what she said, I totally disagree.”
The Judiciary Committee must hold confirmation hearings and approve the nominee before the full confirmation vote on the Senate floor.
“Given the proximity of the presidential election, however, I do not believe that the Senate should vote on the nominee prior to the election,” Collins continued. “In fairness to the American people, who will either be reelecting the President or selecting a new one, the decision on a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court should be made by the President who is elected on November 3rd.”
However, Collins did not explicitly say that she would not vote to confirm President Trump’s nominee to the court if a vote was held before the election. As Republicans hold a narrow majority of 53 seats, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could also afford to lose three votes and still confirm Mr. Trump’s choice with Vice President Mike Pence breaking the tie.
Collins also did not rule out voting to confirm Mr. Trump’s nominee during the lame duck session. Whatever the outcome of the presidential election, Collins could lose her campaign for reelection and she may choose to vote for the president’s nominee before leaving office.
Meanwhile, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey Graham said on Saturday that he supports filling the seat. McConnell has also said that Mr. Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the Senate floor.