Senate

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

Iowa Republican Sens. Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley, both members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Monday they will evaluate President Trump's Supreme Court nominee to fill the vacancy after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg 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 McConnell (R-Ky.) and Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who have both said the Senate should vote on Trump's nominee. 

"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 Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (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 Garland in 2016 after Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died nine months before that year's presidential election. 

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.

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 Tillis (N.C.), Martha McSally (Ariz.), Kelly Loeffler (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 Romney (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.

Outbrain