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Grassley, Ernst pledge to 'evaluate' Trump's Supreme Court nominee

Iowa Republican Sens. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstPush to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw Supreme Court battle turns into 2020 proxy war Trump hits road in scramble to shore up support from 2016 MORE and Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGOP noncommittal about vote on potential Trump-Pelosi coronavirus deal Republicans: Supreme Court won't toss ObamaCare Barrett sidesteps Democratic questions amid high-stakes grilling MORE, both members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Monday they will evaluate President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden holds massive cash advantage over Trump ahead of Election Day Tax records show Trump maintains a Chinese bank account: NYT Trump plays video of Biden, Harris talking about fracking at Pennsylvania rally MORE’s Supreme Court nominee to fill the vacancy after the death of Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgLGBTQ voters must show up at the polls, or risk losing progress Cunningham, Tillis locked in tight race in North Carolina: poll 51 percent want Barrett seated on Supreme Court: poll MORE last week. 

“Once the president puts forward his nominee for the Supreme Court, I will carry out my duty — as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee — to evaluate the nominee for our nation’s highest court,” Ernst said in a statement. 

Grassley, a former Judiciary Committee chairman, echoed the notion of giving Trump’s nominee a fair shake, adding that he thinks the decision to move forward on the confirmation process should be up to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money: McConnell says he would give Trump-backed coronavirus deal a Senate vote | Pelosi, Mnuchin see progress, but no breakthrough | Trump, House lawyers return to court in fight over financial records Progress, but no breakthrough, on coronavirus relief LGBTQ voters must show up at the polls, or risk losing progress MORE (R-Ky.) and Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamDemocratic Senate campaign arm outraises GOP counterpart in September Hug or heresy? The left's attack on Dianne Feinstein is a sad sign of our times Democrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein MORE (R-S.C.), who have both said the Senate should vote on Trump’s nominee. 

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"Over the years, and as recently as July, I’ve consistently said that taking up and evaluating a nominee in 2020 would be a decision for the current chairman of the Judiciary Committee and the Senate Majority Leader," Grassley said in a statement provided to the Des Moines Register. "Both have confirmed their intentions to move forward, so that’s what will happen. Once the hearings are underway, it’s my responsibility to evaluate the nominee on the merits, just as I always have."

Trump said Monday he plans to announce his nominee to replace Ginsburg on Friday or Saturday

The Iowa Republicans’ statements come as the Senate is divided over whether to vote on Trump’s nominee before the November election.

Two Republican senators, Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate to vote Monday to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to Supreme Court Cunningham, Tillis locked in tight race in North Carolina: poll 51 percent want Barrett seated on Supreme Court: poll MORE (Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSenate to vote Monday to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to Supreme Court Senate GOP eyes Oct. 26 for confirming Barrett to Supreme Court This week: Clock ticks on chance for coronavirus deal MORE (Alaska), have said the upper chamber should not vote on a nominee until after the presidential election. 

Democrats have criticized McConnell for vowing to push through Trump’s nominee less than two months ahead of the election, despite his decision to block then-President Obama’s nominee Merrick GarlandMerrick Brian GarlandDemocrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein 51 percent want Barrett seated on Supreme Court: poll Senate Republicans offer constitutional amendment to block Supreme Court packing MORE in 2016 after Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died nine months before that year’s presidential election. 

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Grassley, as Judiciary chairman, was one of the leading Republican voices in opposition to holding a vote on Obama’s nominee in 2016. 

“A lifetime appointment that could dramatically impact individual freedoms and change the direction of the court for at least a generation is too important to get bogged down in politics. The American people shouldn’t be denied a voice,” Grassley said in a statement after Obama nominated Garland. “Do we want a court that interprets the law, or do we want a court that acts as an unelected super legislature? This year is a tremendous opportunity for our country to have a sincere and honest debate about the role of the Supreme Court in our constitutional system of government.”

In 2018, he also signaled he was against the Senate voting to fill a vacancy ahead of the 2020 election, telling Fox News, “If I’m chairman, they won’t take it up.” 

"Because I pledged that in 2016," Grassley said. "That's a decision I made a long time ago."

Democrats need at least four GOP senators to side with them to delay confirmation.

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Ernst is one of the most vulnerable Republican senators facing reelection in November. Other vulnerable GOP senators have also joined in the party’s support in voting on Trump’s nominee, including Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisCunningham, Tillis locked in tight race in North Carolina: poll Senate Republicans offer constitutional amendment to block Supreme Court packing Push to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw MORE (N.C.), Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyCunningham, Tillis locked in tight race in North Carolina: poll Senate Republicans offer constitutional amendment to block Supreme Court packing Biden and Schumer face battles with left if Democrats win big MORE (Ariz.), Kelly LoefflerKelly LoefflerDemocrats make gains in Georgia Senate races: poll Senate Republicans offer constitutional amendment to block Supreme Court packing Perdue's rival raises nearly M after senator mispronounces Kamala Harris's name MORE (Ga.) and Graham, who is facing an increasingly tight race against Democrat Jaime Harrison in South Carolina.

Some key Republicans have yet to say how they think the Senate should address a vote on Trump’s nominee this close to the election, including Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyPoll: Trump, Biden tied in Georgia McConnell says he would give Trump-backed coronavirus deal a vote in Senate Trump tells Fox he wants bigger relief deal as Pelosi's deadline nears MORE (Utah), who was the only GOP senator to vote in favor of convicting Trump on the first article of impeachment earlier this year.

Updated at 7:17 p.m.