AP Explains: What's Next For Trump's Supreme Court Pick?
FILE - In this June 15, 2020, file photo the columns of the Supreme Court are seen with the Capitol at right, in Washington. The Senate is ready to move quickly on a Supreme Court nominee. President Donald Trump is expected Saturday, Sept. 26, to announce his replacement for the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
The Republicanled Senate is expected to move quickly toward a confirmation vote for President Donald Trump's nominee to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg once he announces his choice on Saturday.
- Associated Press
- Last Updated: September 26, 2020, 20:06 IST
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WASHINGTON: The Republican-led Senate is expected to move quickly toward a confirmation vote for President Donald Trump’s nominee to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg once he announces his choice on Saturday.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hasnt yet said for certain whether a final vote will come before or after the Nov. 3 presidential election, just a little more than five weeks away, but Republicans are eyeing a vote in late October.
Ginsburgs Sept. 18 death put the Senate in uncharted political terrain. A confirmation vote so close to a presidential election would be unprecedented, creating significant political risk and uncertainty for both parties. Early voting is underway in some states in the races for the White House and control of Congress.
A look at the confirmation process and what we know and dont know about whats to come:
WHO WILL TRUMP PICK?
Trump is expected to nominate Judge Amy Coney Barrett of Indiana. Barrett, a staunch conservative whose 2017 confirmation included allegations that Democrats were attacking her Catholic faith, was at the White House twice this week, including for a Monday meeting with Trump.
The White House indicated to congressional Republicans and outside allies that she was the pick. But Trump, who assembled a short list of five women, is often unpredictable.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE NOMINEE IS CHOSEN?
It is up to the Senate Judiciary Committee to vet the nominee and hold confirmation hearings. The FBI also conducts a background check. Once the committee approves the nomination, it goes to the Senate floor for a final vote.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who faces his own tough reelection contest, has said he will move quickly on Trumps pick. The nominee traditionally meets with individual senators before the confirmation hearings begin.
WHEN WILL THE HEARINGS START?
Graham has not yet announced a timetable. But if Republicans are able to complete all of the necessary paperwork and the nominee quickly meets senators, three or four days of hearings could start the first or second week of October.
WILL THERE BE A VOTE BEFORE THE ELECTION?
Republicans are privately aiming to vote before the election while acknowledging the tight timeline and saying they will see how the hearings go. McConnell has been careful not to say when he believes the final confirmation vote will happen, other than this year.
Senate Republicans are mindful of their last confirmation fight in 2018, when Christine Blasey Fords allegations of a teenage sexual assault almost derailed Brett Kavanaughs nomination. The process took longer than expected after Republicans agreed to allow Blasey Ford to testify. Kavanaugh, who denied the allegations, was eventually confirmed in a 50-48 vote.
DOES THE SENATE HAVE ENOUGH VOTES TO MOVE FORWARD AND CONFIRM?
McConnell does appear to have the votes, for now. Republicans control the Senate by a 53-47 margin, meaning he could lose up to three Republican votes and still confirm a justice, if Vice President Mike Pence were to break a 50-50 tie.
At this point, McConnell seems to have lost the support of two Republicans Maine Sen. Susan Collins and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, both of whom have said they dont think the Senate should take up the nomination before the election. Collins has said the next president should decide the nominee, and she will vote no on Trumps nominee on principle.
CAN THE DEMOCRATS STOP THE VOTE?
There isnt much they can do. Republicans are in charge and make the rules, and they appear to have the votes for Trumps nominee, at least for now. Democrats have vowed to oppose the nomination, and they are likely to use an assortment of delaying tactics. None of those efforts can stop the nomination, however.
But Democrats will also make the case against the nomination to voters as the confirmation battle stretches into the final weeks and maybe even the final days of the election. They say health care protections and abortion rights are on the line, and argue the Republicans vow to move forward is hypocrisy after McConnell refused to consider President Barack Obamas nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, several months before the 2016 election.
HOW DOES THE CAMPAIGN FACTOR IN?
Republicans are defending 25 of the 38 Senate seats that are on the ballot this year, and many of their vulnerable members were eager to end the fall session and return home to campaign. The Senate was originally scheduled to recess in mid-October, but that now looks unlikely.
While some senators up for reelection, like Collins, have opposed an immediate vote, others are using it to bolster their standing with conservatives. Several GOP senators in competitive races this year including Cory Gardner in Colorado, Martha McSally in Arizona, Kelly Loeffler in Georgia and Thom Tillis in North Carolina quickly rallied to Trump, calling for swift voting.
HOW LONG DOES IT USUALLY TAKE TO CONFIRM A SUPREME COURT JUSTICE?
Supreme Court nominations have taken around 70 days to move through the Senate, though the last, of Kavanaugh, took longer, and others have taken less time. The election is fewer than 40 days away.
COULD THE SENATE FILL THE VACANCY AFTER THE ELECTION?
Yes. Republicans could still vote on Trumps nominee in whats known as the lame-duck session that takes place after the November election and before the next Congress takes office on Jan. 3. No matter what happens in this years election, Republicans are still expected to be in charge of the Senate during that period.
The Senate would have until Jan. 20, the date of the presidential inauguration, to act on Trumps nominee. If Trump were reelected and his pick had not been confirmed by the inauguration, he could renominate his pick as soon as his second term began.
DIDNT MCCONNELL SAY IN 2016 THAT THE SENATE SHOULDNT HOLD SUPREME COURT VOTES IN A PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION YEAR?
He did. McConnell stunned Washington in the hours after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016 when he announced the Senate would not vote on Obamas potential nominee because the voters should have their say by electing the next president.
McConnells strategy paid off, royally, for his party. Obama nominated Garland to fill the seat, but he never received a hearing or a vote. Soon after his inauguration, Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch to fill Scalias seat.
SO WHAT HAS CHANGED SINCE 2016?
McConnell says its different this time because the Senate and the presidency are held by the same party, which was not the case when a vacancy opened under Obama in 2016. It was a rationale McConnell repeated frequently during the 2016 fight, and other Republican senators have invoked it this year when supporting a vote on Trump’s nominee.
Democrats say this reasoning is laughable and the vacancy should be kept open until after the inauguration.
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