Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Timothy D. Easley/AP
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has urged the members of his caucus to “keep your powder dry” regarding their views over voting on a replacement for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
President Trump’s nominee to fill the seat “will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate,” McConnell said in a letter Friday night, sent just hours after the iconic, 87-year-old jurist died.
McConnell infamously blocked President Barack Obama’s nominee to replace conservative Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016, arguing the in a presidential election year, voters should decide who gets to make the nomination.
“Over the coming days, we are all going to come under tremendous pressure from the press to announce how we will handle the coming nomination,” he wrote in his Friday letter, addressed, “Dear Colleagues.”
“For those of you who are unsure how to answer, or for those inclined to oppose giving a nominee a vote, I urge you all to keep your powder dry,” McConnell (R-Kentucky) wrote. “This is not the time to prematurely lock yourselves into a position you may later regret.”
Several GOP senators have made theoretical comments they would not consider a Supreme Court nomination in an election year, including Iowa’s Chuck Grassley, South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham and Maine’s Susan Collins.
Graham and Collins are in tight reelection races. Mitt Romney of Utah, who cast the only Republican vote to convict President Trump during the impeachment trial, is also considered a potential holdout, as are several others up for reelection this year.
Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski on Friday recalled McConnell’s argument in 2016 regarding Scalia’s replacement.
“That was too close to an election, and that the people needed to decide,” Murkowski said, Alaska Public Radio reported. “That the closer you get to an election, that argument becomes even more important.”
Four GOP defections could defeat a nomination, while a tie vote could be broken by Vice President Mike Pence.
In his letter, McConnell said the Senate followed “the Biden rule in 2016, which provided that the Senate would not fill Supreme Court vacancies that arise in president election years when the presidency and the Senate majority are held by opposing parties.”
“Indeed, as I said beginning in February 2016, you have to go back to 1888 when Grover Cleveland was president to find an example of filling a vacancy that arose in an election year when the presidency and Senate majority were held by opposing parties.”
This year, the GOP controls both the Senate, by a 53-47 majority, and the presidency. It takes just a simple majority, or 51 votes, to approve a justice to the court.
McConnell also argued against the suggestion there wasn’t enough time to fill the vacancy, noting Ginsburg’s confirmation took only 50 days, and others took less time.
The average number of days to confirm a justice is 69, according to the Congressional Research Service.