Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) announced on Tuesday that he will participate in hearings to consider confirming President Donald Trump’s nominee – whoever that may be – to fill the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat.
Ginsburg died last Friday at age 87 after a long bout with cancer, opening the door for Trump to add a third Justice to the High Court.
My statement regarding the current Supreme Court vacancy: pic.twitter.com/6YO0dPWWXc
— Senator Mitt Romney (@SenatorRomney) September 22, 2020
Romney, the failed 2012 Republican presidential nominee, explained on his website that he intends to ignore the standard set by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in 2016, regardless of what people think is fair:
My decision regarding a Supreme Court nomination is not the result of a subjective test of ‘fairness’ which, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. It is based on the immutable fairness of following the law, which in this case is the Constitution and precedent. The historical precedent of election year nominations is that the Senate generally does not confirm an opposing party’s nominee but does confirm a nominee of its own.
Romney’s rationalization? The president’s constitutional right to make an appointment, even in an election year:
The Constitution gives the President the power to nominate and the Senate the authority to provide advice and consent on Supreme Court nominees. Accordingly, I intend to follow the Constitution and precedent in considering the President’s nominee. If the nominee reaches the Senate floor, I intend to vote based upon their qualifications.
Romney later told reporters that the United States is a “center-right” country and should therefore have a conservative Court.
“My liberal friends have over many decades gotten very used to the idea of having a liberal court, but that’s not written in the stars,” Romney said, adding that it would be “appropriate for a nation that is … center-right to have a Court which reflects center-right points of view.”
He added that denying Trump his constitutional right would be unfair.
“It wasn’t unfair because it was consistent with history. It was consistent with precedent, it was consistent with the Constitution,” Romney said. “That the Merrick Garland decision was unfair, and so therefore it has to be made up by doing something which also wouldn’t make a lot of sense – which is saying to President Trump you can’t get your nominee, either – that just doesn’t follow.”
Romney – the only Republican to vote to remove Trump from office in February after Trump was impeached – has shattered the hopes of Senate Democrats and two Republicans – Susan Collins (ME) and Lisa Murkowski (AK) – that McConnell would wait until after the election, or at the very least, would not have the votes to consider Trump’s pick.
Trump said he intends to announce his “on Friday or Saturday” of this week. The suspected top two contenders are both women: Judge Amy Coney Barrett of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and Judge Barbara Lagoa of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Other names, like Republican Senators Ted Cruz (TX) and Tom Cotton (AR), have also been floated.
Unfortunately, with Romney now on board, McConnell has the support to move forward, and although the Majority Leader has not yet specified when hearings would begin, he has little incentive to wait.
In the event of a 50-50 tie – a real possibility given the volatility of the circumstances – Vice President Mike Pence would cast the deciding vote. As vice president, the Constitution grants Pence the title of President of the Senate.
Odds are, however, that Trump will get to add a third Justice, tilting the Court even more toward the right. If he succeeds, Ginsburg’s successor would be the fifth sitting Justice appointed by a president who lost the popular vote.
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Brandon is a political writer for the Hill Reporter specializing in current events, breaking news, and scientific discovery. Brandon holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Indiana University. He lives in New York City.