Senate

McConnell digs in on vow to fill Ginsburg's Supreme Court seat

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is digging in ahead of an explosive fight over the Supreme Court seat left vacant after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

McConnell, during his first remarks from the Senate floor since Ginsburg's death on Friday, argued there was "more than enough time" to confirm President Trump's forthcoming nominee before the end of the year and rebuffed charges of hypocrisy from Democrats after Republicans refused to move former President Obama's nominee in 2016.

"The historical precedent is overwhelming, and it runs in one direction. If our Democratic colleagues want to claim they are outraged, they can only be outraged at the plain facts of American history," McConnell said.

McConnell, reiterating his remarks from Friday night, vowed that "the Senate will vote on this nomination this year."

The GOP leader declined to respond to questions from reporters off the Senate floor about whether he will push for a vote before the Nov. 3 election, which is only 43 days away.

But during his floor remarks, McConnell highlighted that some previous Supreme Court justices had moved from nomination to confirmation in less time than that.

"Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, another iconic jurist, was confirmed 33 days after her nomination. For the late Justice Ginsburg herself, it was just 42 days. Justice [John Paul] Stevens's entire confirmation process could have been played out twice, twice between now and Nov. 3, with time to spare. And Justice Ginsburg herself could have been confirmed twice between now and the end of the year with time to spare," McConnell said.

The Kentucky Republican, who is up for reelection this year, has not tipped his hand on whether he will try to hold a vote before Election Day, something Trump is applying public pressure for the Senate GOP caucus to do.

Republicans can lose only three GOP senators and still let Vice President Pence break a tie.

Two Republican senators - Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) - have said they do not believe the upper chamber should move the nomination before the election.

GOP Sens. Mitt Romney (Utah), Cory Gardner (Colo.) and Chuck Grassley (Iowa) haven't addressed how they think the Senate should act.

The question over timing is expected to be discussed during a closed-door caucus lunch on Tuesday.

Democrats, who need four GOP senators to side with them to delay a nomination, have fumed over McConnell's pledge to move forward and accused Republicans of hypocrisy. McConnell and the Senate GOP caucus refused to give Merrick Garland, Obama's final Supreme Court nominee, a hearing or a vote in 2016.

GOP senators are brushing off those charges, arguing that the key distinction between 2016 and 2020 is that now the White House and the Senate are controlled by the same party.

"Others want to claim the situation is exactly analogous to Justice [Antonin] Scalia's passing in 2016 and so we should not proceed until January. This is also completely false," McConnell said on Monday.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) fired back that the GOP rhetoric "doesn't pass the smell test in any way."

"I just heard the remarks of the Republican leader. It's obvious why he is so, so defensive," Schumer added. "What is fair is fair. A senator's word must count for something."

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