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Murkowski: Supreme Court nominee should not be taken up before election

Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiClimate change — Trump's golden opportunity The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump combative, Biden earnest during distanced TV duel Romney says he'll vote to put Barrett on Supreme Court MORE (R-Alaska) said on Sunday that the Senate should not take up a Supreme Court nomination before the election, becoming the second GOP senator to voice opposition to a vote before Nov. 3.

"For weeks, I have stated that I would not support taking up a potential Supreme Court vacancy this close to the election. Sadly, what was then a hypothetical is now our reality, but my position has not changed," Murkowski said in a statement.

"I did not support taking up a nomination eight months 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," she added.

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Murkowski's statement comes after fellow moderate GOP Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsPush to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw Collins PAC donated hundreds of dollars to two candidates who support QAnon Republicans increasingly seek distance from Trump MORE (R-Maine) said on Saturday that she also believed the Senate should not vote on a Supreme Court nomination before the election, though she opened the door to the Senate Judiciary Committee holding a hearing in the intervening weeks.

"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," Collins said.

Neither Collins nor Murkowski directly addressed in their statements how they would view an attempt to confirm a Supreme Court nominee during the end-of-year lame-duck session.

Murkowski's position, while a win by Democrats, was largely expected. She indicated over the summer that she would not support moving a Supreme Court nominee in the final weeks before the election and reiterated that decision as recently as Friday, hours before news of the death of the late Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgFauci says he was 'absolutely not' surprised Trump got coronavirus after Rose Garden event Push to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw Biden owes us an answer on court-packing MORE.

“I would not vote to confirm a Supreme Court nominee. We are 50 some days away from an election,” she said on Friday, according to Alaska Public Media

But Ginsburg's death has added a new reality into the years-long debate over how Republicans would handle an election-year Supreme Court vacancy under a Trump White House.

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It also injected fresh chaos into an already historic election year, which has seen both an impeachment trial and a pandemic, just weeks before Nov. 3 and as some voters are already heading to the polls.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPush to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw Schumer labels McConnell's scheduled coronavirus stimulus vote as 'a stunt' Pelosi gives White House 48-hour deadline for coronavirus stimulus deal MORE (R-Ky.) has vowed to give whomever President TrumpDonald John TrumpPolice say man dangling off Trump Tower Chicago demanding to speak with Trump Fauci says he was 'absolutely not' surprised Trump got coronavirus after Rose Garden event Biden: Trump 'continues to lie to us' about coronavirus MORE nominates a vote, and the president is expected to name his pick in a matter of days.

But McConnell has not weighed in on the timing. If he wants to hold a vote before the election, he will need to hold together at least 50 of his 53 members, which would let Vice President Pence break a tie.

That means in addition to Collins and Murkowski, Democrats need to win over at least two additional GOP senators.

GOP strategists believe squeezing in a vote before the election could provide Trump with one final victory to trumpet in the final days before Nov. 3. And waiting until the lame-duck isn't without risks given Democratic nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden: Trump 'continues to lie to us' about coronavirus Rally crowd chants 'lock him up' as Trump calls Biden family 'a criminal enterprise' Undecided voters in Arizona wary of Trump, crave stability MORE's lead in most polls. 

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzConservatives seize on New York Post story to push Section 230 reform Changing suburbs threaten GOP hold on Texas Hillicon Valley: Trump refuses to condemn QAnon | Twitter revises its policy, lets users share disputed article | Google sees foreign cyber threats MORE (R-Texas), who was on Trump's list of potential Supreme Court picks, is pushing his Republican colleagues to vote on whomever the president selects before the election. He predicted on Sunday that Republicans will have the votes to confirm Trump's pick. 

"We need a full court on Election Day given the very high likelihood that we’re going to see litigation that goes to the court," he told host George StephanopoulosGeorge Robert StephanopoulosPelosi: White House made 'unacceptable changes' to testing language during negotiations on coronavirus stimulus Infectious disease expert calls White House advisers herd immunity claims 'pseudoscience' Pelosi gives White House 48-hour deadline for coronavirus stimulus deal MORE on ABC's "This Week."

Members of McConnell's leadership team were careful, during TV interviews on Sunday, to sidestep if they would push for a vote before the November election or wait until the end of the year. 

"We will hold hearings, and there will be a vote on the floor of the United States Senate this year," Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoHillicon Valley: Senate panel votes to subpoena Big Tech executives | Amazon says over 19,000 workers tested positive for COVID-19 | Democrats demand DHS release report warning of election interference GOP senators call on Trump to oppose nationalizing 5G Energy innovation bill can deliver jobs and climate progress MORE (Wyo.), the No. 3 Republican senator, told NBC News's "Meet the Press with Chuck ToddCharles (Chuck) David ToddHHS secretary: Avoiding large gatherings 'a difficult message for all Western democracies' Trump bashes NBC ahead of town hall, adds it's 'a free hour on television' Chuck Todd indirectly refers to former colleague Olbermann as 'somebody from the very far left' of the media world MORE." 

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP vows quick confirmation of Trump's Supreme Court pick amid coronavirus turmoil This week: Coronavirus complicates Senate's Supreme Court fight Schumer demands Senate coronavirus testing program after Trump diagnosis MORE (Mo.), a member of GOP leadership, didn't rule out a vote before the election but noted that "to get it done before Election Day, everything has to work I think pretty precisely."

Democrats have called for Ginsburg's seat to be kept open until next year, when it would be filled by the candidate who wins in November. 

But if Republicans stick together, Democrats will largely be powerless to prevent Trump and McConnell from filling the seat. 

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In addition to Collins and Murkowski, Democrats need at least two other GOP senators to say the nomination should wait until after the election and vote against GOP leadership if they try to move Trump's pick before Nov. 3. 

Sen. Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsPush to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw Sunday shows - Trump Michigan rally grabs the spotlight Democratic Delaware senator says he is open to expanding the Supreme Court MORE (D-Del.), who has close ties to some GOP senators, told "Fox News Sunday" that he would be reaching out to Republican colleagues about the looming Supreme Court fight. 

“I’m going to be working this weekend, this week, to reach across the aisle and see if I can persuade some friends to respect tradition, to respect the precedent they set in 2016 and to let the voters decide,” he said.