GOP Sen. Murkowski opposed vote on Supreme Court vacancy before elections prior to Ginsburg's death
Before Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away on Friday, Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski said in an interview this week that she “would not vote” to confirm a nominee to the High Court ahead of the 2020 presidential election.
Ginsburg passed away on Friday at the age of 87 from complications surrounding metastatic pancreas cancer.
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Murkowski, R-Alaska, paid tribute to Ginsburg, calling her a “true leader and pioneer,” a “champion and crusader for equal justice and civil liberties,” and said she “made an enduring mark on history.”
“I have the greatest respect for her as a trailblazer among women,” Murkowski said Friday. “I am personally deeply saddened by her passing and know that women around the world who have also admired her tenacity and spirit feel the same.”
She added: “Tonight we mourn her passing and turn to honoring her life and legacy.”
Murkowski’s comments Friday night did not mention a potential path to confirm a nominee to the Supreme Court, but just days earlier, the Republican senator, in an interview with Alaska Public Media, said she would not vote for a Supreme Court nominee should a vacancy become available ahead of Election Day.
“I would not vote to confirm a Supreme Court nominee,” she told the outlet. “We are 50 some days away from an election.”
During the interview, Murkowski based her reasoning on precedent -- noting the situation surrounding former President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee and D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Merrick Garland.
Obama nominated Garland to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who passed away in 2016, but Senate Majority Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans refused to hold a hearing or vote on his nomination, citing the imminent 2016 presidential election.
“That was too close to an election, and that the people needed to decide,” Murkowski told Alaska Public Media, referencing McConnell’s argument at the time. “That the closer you get to an election, that argument becomes even more important.”
But McConnell, R-Ky., just hours after learning of Ginsburg’s passing, vowed that a President Trump nominee to the Supreme Court to fill her vacancy “will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”
“The Senate and the nation mourn the sudden passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the conclusion of her extraordinary American life,” McConnell said in a statement Friday.
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“In the last midterm election before Justice Scalia’s death in 2016, Americans elected a Republican Senate majority because we pledged to check and balance the last days of a lame-duck president’s second term. We kept our promise,” McConnell continued. “Since the 1880s, no Senate has confirmed an opposite-party president’s Supreme Court nominee in a presidential election year.”
McConnell added that “by contrast, Americans reelected our majority in 2016 and expanded it in 2018 because we pledged to work with President Trump and support his agenda, particularly his outstanding appointments to the federal judiciary.”
“Once again, we will keep our promise,” he said. “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”
But the nomination and confirmation process for the latest addition to the Supreme Court, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, took 89 days total for confirmation. It took 57 days from Kavanaugh's nomination to his confirmation hearing.
There are 45 days until Election Day.
Murkowski, during Kavanaugh’s confirmation process, was looked at as one of the final four swing senators who would determine whether the now-justice would be confirmed to the bench of the High Court. Murkowski remained undecided until the final hours prior to the confirmation vote.
Meanwhile, Republican Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, was the last Republican senator to throw their support behind Kavanaugh.
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In an interview with The New York Times earlier this month, Collins indicated that she would be uncomfortable with a vote on a Supreme Court nominee ahead of the election.
“I think that’s too close,” she told The Times. “I really do.”
In a statement Friday night, Collins did not reference a path forward, but praised Ginsburg as “a trailblazer for women’s rights, a fierce champion for equality, and an extremely accomplished American who broke countless barriers in the field of law.”
She added: “She has been a role model to generations of women, and her legacy will live on in the countless people she inspired.”
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Friday said Ginsburg's vacancy should not be filled until "we have a new president.”
“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice,” Schumer, D-N.Y., tweeted Friday. “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”