© Greg Nash
Sen. Cory GardnerCory GardnerProtecting the outdoors: Three cheers for America's best idea Ex-Sen. Cory Gardner joins lobbying firm Biden administration reverses Trump changes it says 'undermined' conservation program MORE (R-Colo.), who is facing a tough reelection bid, signaled on Monday that he will not oppose taking up a Supreme Court nominee this year to fill the late Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgSupreme Court low on political standing To infinity and beyond: What will it take to create a diverse and representative judiciary? Justice Ginsburg's parting gift? MORE's seat.
"I have and will continue to support judicial nominees who will protect our Constitution, not legislate from the bench, and uphold the law. Should a qualified nominee who meets this criteria be put forward, I will vote to confirm," he added.
Gardner's decision comes as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellWe don't need platinum to solve the debt ceiling crisis The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats argue price before policy amid scramble House passes standalone bill to provide B for Israel's Iron Dome MORE (R-Ky.) appears increasingly likely to have locked the support within the Republican caucus for moving President TrumpDonald TrumpJulian Castro knocks Biden administration over refugee policy Overnight Energy & Environment — League of Conservation Voters — Climate summit chief says US needs to 'show progress' on environment Five takeaways from Arizona's audit results MORE's forthcoming Supreme Court nominee.
With a 53-47 Senate majority, McConnell can lose three GOP senators and still let Vice President Pence break a tie. If Pence breaks a tie, it would be the first time a vice president has been needed to confirm a Supreme Court nominee.
McConnell has not said if he will try to move forward with a Supreme Court justice before the November election, only saying on the Senate floor earlier Monday that it would get a vote this year. Democrats need four GOP senators to side with them to prevent McConnell from doing so.
So far, only two GOP senators — 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 (Alaska) and 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 (Maine) — have said they do not think a nominee should move before the Nov. 3 election.
Several other GOP senators viewed as swing votes have fallen in line behind McConnell's strategy as he's worked to lock down key Republican votes.
As of Monday morning, there were three GOP senators viewed as votes to watch: Gardner, Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyGrassley announces reelection bid The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats argue price before policy amid scramble Congress facing shutdown, debt crisis with no plan B MORE (Iowa) and Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyGraham tries to help Trump and McConnell bury the hatchet GOP senator will 'probably' vote for debt limit increase Five questions and answers about the debt ceiling fight MORE (R-Utah).
But Grassley indicated in a statement early Monday evening his openness to confirming a Supreme Court justice this year.
That leaves Romney as the last key swing vote. But even if he sided with Democrats and all Democrats voted against a nominee, that would likely result in a 50-50 tie Pence could break.
Romney said on Monday that he was undecided and wanted to talk to McConnell and his colleagues during a closed-door lunch on Tuesday.
"Before I have any comment, I’m going to meet with my colleagues, which I'll be doing tomorrow. And if I have something at that point, I'll let you know what it is, but until then, I need to be waiting and get a chance to speak with those colleagues," he told reporters.