GOP Sen. Collins Says Election Should Determine Fate of SCOTUS Nomination

Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said the future the Supreme Court should be left to the voters.

On Friday, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died at 87 after a long battle with cancer. The court has been divided along liberal and conservative wings, with Chief Justice John Roberts often the swing vote in 5-4 rulings. Adding a conservative judge, as President Donald Trump has promised to do, would tip the balance in favor of the conservative wing.

Collins, a GOP moderate who is seeking re-election, issued a statement Saturday indicating that while she has no objections to Trump beginning the nomination process, she has no plans to confirm anyone before Election Day.

“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 on her website.

In 2016, after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, then-President Barack Obama nominated D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Merrick Garland to the high court. However, citing the upcoming election and the term-limited end Obama’s time in the White House, Senate Majority Leader McConnell of Kentucky did not act on the nomination.

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“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,” Collins said.

Collins then made it clear that she opposes any rush to have the court at full strength by Election Day.

“Given the proximity of the presidential election, however, I do not believe that the Senate should vote on the nominee prior to the election.  In fairness to the American people, who will either be re-electing 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,” she said.

Trump fired back later Saturday, according to a White House media pool report.

“I totally disagree with her. We have an obligation. We won. And we have an obligation as the winners to pick who we want. That’s not the next president — hopefully I’ll be the next president. We’re here now, right now we’re here. We have an obligation to the voters, all of the people, the millions of people that put us here in the form of a victory. We have an obligation to them, to all of those voters, and it’s a very simple thing,” Trump said.

“I think the process can go very, very fast. I’ll be making my choice soon, and when my choice is made I’ll be sending it over to Mitch and the Senate, and they will do what they have to do. I think we’ll have a very popular choice, whoever it may be,” Trump said, adding “I think the choice will be next week.”

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowsi of Alaska has said she would not vote to confirm a nominee before the election, according to Reuters.

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The call for delay from the two senators, who are part of the Republicans’ slim 53-vote majority in the Senate, was in counterpoint to a demand for speed from conservative Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

“I think we risk a constitutional crisis if we do not have a nine-justice Supreme Court, particularly when there is such a risk of a contested election,” Cruz said in an interview Friday with Fox News host Sean Hannity.

Cruz argued the Democratic Party will use a court vacancy as part of its plan to undermine the election.

“Democrats and Joe Biden have made clear they intend to challenge this election. They intend to fight the legitimacy of this election. As you know, Hillary Clinton has told Joe Biden ‘under no circumstances should you concede. You should challenge this election,’” Cruz said told Hannity.

Also calling for swift action was Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“I will support President @realDonaldTrump in any effort to move forward regarding the recent vacancy created by the passing of Justice Ginsburg,” Graham, who is facing re-election, tweeted Saturday.

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