Supreme Court vacancy
September 26, 2020

As Democrats try to beat the odds and prevent the confirmation of President Trump's Supreme Court nominee (almost certainly Amy Coney Barrett) before the November presidential election, some lawmakers and activists have suggested boycotting the Senate Judicary Committee hearings, which are tentatively scheduled for the middle of October. Just don't expect the idea to gain much traction, The Washington Post reports, especially among Democrats who sit on the committee.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) has said he will forego the standard courtesy visit, in which the nominee meets with senators individually, but he does intend to participate in the hearings and he believes "all my Judiciary colleagues will."

The risks of skipping out on the hearings seem to outweigh the potential reward, per the Post. If Democrats don't go, Republicans would likely move swiftly though the questioning and toward a committee vote.

More specifically, though, a boycott could prevent Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), who sits on the committee, from giving a jolt to her own vice presidential campaign, the Post notes. Harris, who is running alongside the Democratic nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden, has become well-known for her interrogations of Trump's nominees over the last few years, and there's a sense that she could enhance her ticket's chances during the hearings.

With all that in mind, it's more likely that Democrats will try to extend questioning as long as possible and make their case for why the nominee shouldn't be confirmed in a more traditional manner. Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

September 22, 2020

Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) are both in jeopardy of losing their re-election bids, and polls show President Trump is also struggling in Maine and Colorado, so it seems like the GOP's platform isn't registering in the two states. Still, there's hope among Republicans that voters will split their tickets between the Democratic presidential nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden, and down-ballot Republicans. But, Peter Nicholas writes for The Atlantic, that's fading as the GOP pushes to confirm Trump's Supreme Court nominee as swiftly as possible.

In Nicholas' view, Collins, Gardner, and others would likely get a boost if Trump put off the nomination, allowing the winner of the presidential contest to make the selection. At the very least, he writes, he could announce the nominee during the lame-duck period, meaning senators wouldn't have to cast polarizing votes before their elections. (Collins said she won't vote for the nominee because it's an election year, while Gardner said he's prepared to approve Trump's unnamed nominee.)

As things stand, both those scenarios are unlikely, which has some Republican advocates worried they'll lose crucial down-ballot votes. "I need suburban women to be ticket splitters, and I can't lose them as ticket splitters," Sarah Chamberlain, the CEO of the moderate Republican Main Street Partnership, told The Atlantic. "If we don't handle this correctly as a party, we're going to have a problem."

While there's a sense Trump is willing to abandon senators like Gardner and Collins, some analysts think Trump is also being left out to dry — by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Read more at The Atlantic. Tim O'Donnell

September 22, 2020

There was speculation that Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) would split with his party and reject a confirmation vote for President Trump's Supreme Court nominee before the November election, but several analysts aren't surprised that he ended up supporting moving forward. That's because Romney's preference for a conservative-leaning high court takes precedent over his "disdain" for Trump, The New York Times' Carl Hulse argues.

Politico's Tim Alberta concurred, noting that Romney likely still expects and even hopes Trump will lose to his Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, in November. Alberta also suspects Romney senses the Democrats will "dominate" Congress for some time, leaving the Supreme Court as the only branch of government to maintain conservative power.

That said, there was a little more confusion surrounding Romney's explanation for his decision. The senator said Democrats "have gotten used to having a liberal court" — which several observers pointed out was inaccurate, at least in terms of the legal ideologies of the sitting justices — and that a center-right court is appropriate for a "nation that is, if you will, center-right." But Alberta and The Daily Beast's Sam Stein agreed that Romney's interpretation of where the country stands politically is off the mark. Tim O'Donnell

September 22, 2020

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on Tuesday added his name to the growing list of Republican senators who have confirmed they will consider President Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court even if the vote occurs before the November election.

Romney, who is not considered an ally of Trump, was seen as one of the GOP lawmakers who could potentially join Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) in breaking with the party on the grounds that 2020 is an election year. Collins and Murkowski based their decisions on the fact that the Republican-led Senate blocked then-President Barack Obama's nominee in 2016 because it was too close to that year's election. Murkowski explained she believes "the same standard" must apply this time around.

As it turns out, Romney will indeed support a vote, arguing that precedent calls for it. Like other Republicans, he pointed to the fact that, historically, the Senate confirms its own party's nominee in an election year and holds out when the president hails from the opposing faction. Many observers have argued Republicans did not make that distinction in 2016, although Romney himself was not a senator at the time. Tim O'Donnell

September 21, 2020

President Trump on Monday said he'll probably announce his Supreme Court nominee on Saturday, and word is he's leaning toward the speculative favorite, appellate court judge Amy Coney Barrett, Bloomberg reports.

Barrett, whom Trump reportedly met with Monday, is well-regarded in conservative circles, Bloomberg notes, and, because she hails from the Midwest, there's reportedly a sense that her selection could help sway swing voters in Rust Belt and Great Lakes states. Trump also already interviewed Barrett when filling the last Supreme Court vacancy, and he reportedly considers her, per Bloomberg, to be a "smart, hard-nosed conservative jurist who would come across well during televised confirmation hearings" and hold steady on issues like abortion, gun rights, and health care when they come before the court.

Additionally, there's reportedly widespread support for Barrett within the White House, and she's also viewed as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) favorite contender.

Bloomberg reports that Barbara Lagoa, a Cuban American from Florida, is reportedly the only other person Trump is seriously considering, but she's a distant second. While the president has spoken highly of her and her selection could help Trump electorally in Florida, he's apparently concerned that she received votes from 27 Democrats when she was confirmed to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. While that traditionally may sound like a bonus, the upcoming confirmation process will almost certainly be split along party lines so bipartisan credentials would seemingly be a non-factor either way. Read more at Bloomberg. Tim O'Donnell

September 20, 2020

Speaking at a rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina, on Saturday night, President Trump told supporters that he has yet to select anyone to fill the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's seat, but said his nominee will be a woman.

Earlier Saturday, speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump said he will "most likely" choose a woman, but he appeared to make that a promise once he got on stage at the rally. Either way, Trump said an announcement could come within a week and reiterated his preference that the confirmation process happens swiftly, preferably before the November election. That will certainly continue to draw objections from his critics, who believe the choice should be made by whomever wins the election.

In a phone call with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has expressed his desire to fast-track a Senate vote, Trump reportedly mentioned two female appellate court judges — Amy Coney Barrett and Barbara Lagoa — as possible selections. Barrett is seen as an early favorite since Trump interviewed her during the last two Supreme Court selection processes, and she is well-regarded by conservatives. Allison Jones Rushing, also an appeals court judge, is another contender. Politico notes that, at 38, she would be one of the youngest justices ever to serve on the Supreme Court, which means there'd be a chance she could hold the seat for quite some time. Read more at The Washington Post and Politico. Tim O'Donnell

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