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

Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiGOP warns McConnell won't blink on debt cliff Graham tries to help Trump and McConnell bury the hatchet Trump, allies launch onslaught as midterms kick into gear 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 CollinsLooking to the past to secure America's clean energy future Collins to endorse LePage in Maine governor comeback bid McConnell privately urged GOP senators to oppose debt ceiling hike 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 GinsburgWhat would Justice Ginsburg say? Her words now part of the fight over pronouns Supreme Court low on political standing To infinity and beyond: What will it take to create a diverse and representative judiciary? 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 McConnellHow the Democratic Party's campaign strategy is failing America GOP should grab the chance to upend Pelosi's plan on reconciliation We don't need platinum to solve the debt ceiling crisis MORE (R-Ky.) has vowed to give whomever President TrumpDonald TrumpCheney says a lot of GOP lawmakers have privately encouraged her fight against Trump Republicans criticizing Afghan refugees face risks DeVos says 'principles have been overtaken by personalities' in GOP 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 BidenPelosi sets Thursday vote on bipartisan infrastructure bill Pressure grows to cut diplomatic red tape for Afghans left behind President Biden is making the world a more dangerous place MORE's lead in most polls. 

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzFBI investigating alleged assault on Fort Bliss soldier at Afghan refugee camp The Memo: Biden's immigration problems reach crescendo in Del Rio Matthew McConaughey on potential political run: 'I'm measuring it' 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 StephanopoulosLawmakers gear up for spending bill, infrastructure votes Surgeon general: 'Our enemy is the virus. It is not one another' Christie: Biden's new vaccine mandate will 'harden opposition' 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 BarrassoOvernight Energy & Environment — League of Conservation Voters — Climate summit chief says US needs to 'show progress' on environment Manchin, Barrasso announce bill to revegetate forests after devastating fires Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by the League of Conservation Voters — EPA finalizing rule cutting HFCs MORE (Wyo.), the No. 3 Republican senator, told NBC News's "Meet the Press with Chuck ToddCharles (Chuck) David ToddLawmakers gear up for spending bill, infrastructure votes Graham told Trump he 'f'd up' the presidency: book DHS secretary: We are working in a 'completely broken' immigration system MORE." 

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntRoy Blunt has helped forge and fortify the shared bonds between Australia and America The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Biden jumps into frenzied Dem spending talks Congress facing shutdown, debt crisis with no plan B 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 CoonsChris Andrew CoonsDems punch back over GOP holdup of Biden SBA nominee Biden threatens more sanctions on Ethiopia, Eritrea over Tigray conflict Senate Democrats to Garland: 'It's time to end the federal death penalty' 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.