Vulnerable senator breaks with GOP over court nominee

Vulnerable senator breaks with GOP over court nominee

Sen. Mark KirkMark Steven KirkOn the Trail: Senate GOP hopefuls tie themselves to Trump Biden campaign releases video to explain 'what really happened in Ukraine' Why Republicans are afraid to call a key witness in the impeachment inquiry MORE (R-Ill.) on Wednesday broke with his party and said he'll consider President Obama's Supreme Court nominee.

"The Senate’s constitutionally defined role to provide advice and consent is as important as the president’s role in proposing a nominee, and I will assess Judge Merrick Garland based on his record and qualifications," Kirk said in a statement.

His remarks come after Obama nominated Merrick Garland, the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, to fill the seat of the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

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Kirk, who easily won the GOP nomination on Tuesday night, will face Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) in what is expected to be a close general election. He faces an uphill battle in his reelection bid in a state that went to Obama in both the 2008 and 2012 election.

He's not the only Republican senator who will consider meeting with Obama's nominee. Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeMcSally ties Democratic rival Kelly to Sanders in new ad McSally launches 2020 campaign Sinema will vote to convict Trump MORE (R-Ariz.) said he's open to "meet with anybody."

"I'd meet with anybody," Flake said on Wednesday. "I'm not going to speak for anybody else. I meet with people, that's what I do."

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who also faces a tough reelection bid, said he’d consider Garland if he’s nominated by the president elected in the fall.

“Should Merrick Garland be nominated again by the next president, I would be happy to carefully consider his nomination,” Toomey tweeted, “as I have done with dozens of judges submitted by President Obama. #SCOTUS.”

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But other vulnerable GOP incumbents are sticking with the party line, saying they want to wait to fill the Supreme Court seat until after the presidential election.

Sen. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteOn the Trail: Senate GOP hopefuls tie themselves to Trump GOP fears Trump backlash in suburbs Trump makes rare trip to Clinton state, hoping to win back New Hampshire MORE (R-N.H.), who is seeking reelection and will likely face off against Democratic New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, maintained that the "Senate should not move forward with the confirmation process" until after November.

"In the midst of a presidential election and a consequential debate about the future of our country, I believe the American people deserve to have a voice in the direction of the court," Ayotte said in a statement. "I continue to believe the Senate should not move forward with the confirmation process until the people have spoken by electing a new president.”

Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanGOP senators offering bill to cement business provision in Trump tax law Mnuchin defends Treasury regulations on GOP tax law Bipartisan lawmakers introduce bill to combat cyberattacks on state and local governments MORE (R-Ohio) echoed a similar sentiment.

“As I have said previously, I believe it is better for the country to allow the American people to have a voice in this debate," Portman said. "I believe the best thing for the country is to trust the American people and allow them to weigh in on this issue. This is the same position that Vice President Biden and Senators Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidHarry Reid on 'Medicare for All': 'Not a chance in hell it would pass' The Hill's Morning Report - Sanders on the rise as Nevada debate looms Bottom line MORE and Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDemocratic senators urge Trump administration to request emergency funding for coronavirus response Barr to testify before House Judiciary panel Graham won't call Barr to testify over Roger Stone sentencing recommendation MORE have outlined in the past."

Portman, who handily won his own state's GOP nomination on Tuesday, will go on to face former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland in what is considered to be one of the most competitive and expensive races this cycle.