Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski said Tuesday that she cannot rule out voting to confirm a Trump nominee to the Supreme Court, just days after she voiced opposition for filling the vacancy so close to an election.
“I know everybody wants to ask the question, ‘Will you confirm the nominee?’” she told reporters outside the Capitol. “We don’t have a nominee yet. You and I don’t know who that is. And so I can’t confirm whether or not I can confirm a nominee when I don’t know who the nominee is.”
The Alaska senator said on Sunday that her position “has not changed” after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and she “would not support taking up a potential Supreme Court vacancy this close to the election.”
“Sadly, what was then a hypothetical is now our reality, but my position has not changed,” she said. “I did not support taking up a nomination eight months before the 2016 election to fill the vacancy created by the passing of Justice Scalia.”
She added: “We are now even closer to the 2020 election — less than two months out — and I believe the same standard must apply.”
Murkowski said Tuesday she still opposes a Senate confirmation vote so close to an election, but that decision is not up to her.
“I do not support this process moving forward,” she said. “Now, having said that, this process is moving forward with or without me.”
Murkowski suggested she may use her vote to protest the speed of the confirmation process if necessary.
“If I had felt that there was a rush to move this through because you’re up against a deadline that is hard and fast, like an election, and that a nominee had not been thoroughly and fairly evaluated through our process, then I’m going to have to look at that,” she said.
Trump has pledged to name a nominee to the high court by Saturday and Senate Republicans have promised to press forward with the confirmation process as soon as possible.
Democrats have expressed outrage and point to 2016, when President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the court in an election year and Republicans held the seat open until after the inauguration. Republicans, however, argue that circumstances are different now because the presidency and the Senate are controlled by the same party.
All eyes have turned to a handful of moderate Republicans who will decide whether Trump’s nominee will win the simple majority in the Senate needed to secure the SCOTUS seat.
After Sens. Corey Gardner, R-Colo., and Mitt Romney, R-Utah, have agreed to support a nominee before the election and Murkowski is now open to doing so, Maine’s Susan Collins remains the lone Republican committed to opposing a vote on the nominee before the election.
"If there is [a vote], I would oppose the nominee, not because I might not support that nominee under normal circumstances, but we're simply too close to the election,” she told reporters Tuesday. “I now think we need to play by the same set of rules," she said, noting the failed Merrick Garland confirmation process.
“It’s always got to be the two, those two,” Trump said of Collins and Murkowksi at a rally, noting that all other Republican senators said they would support confirming his nominee.