Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican in a swing state who will be up for reelection in 2022, said in a statement Tuesday that he supports Senate Republicans in moving to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a trailblazer for women's rights and the face of the liberal bloc of the court.
"Four years ago, I noted that my decision to oppose moving forward with the Supreme Court confirmation process for Judge Merrick Garland was related to the circumstances present at the time," Toomey said. "In 2016, the White House and the Senate, which share equally the constitutional authority for filling a Supreme Court vacancy, were controlled by different parties. ... The circumstances surrounding the current vacancy are, in fact, different. While there is a presidential election this year, the White House and the Senate are currently both controlled by the same party."
He continued: "The Senate’s historical practice has been to fill Supreme Court vacancies in these circumstances. ... I will evaluate President Trump’s nominee to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg based on whether the nominee has the character, intellect, and experience needed to serve on our nation’s highest court. These are the same objective, non-partisan criteria that I have used to evaluate judicial nominees under both President Obama and President Trump."
Toomey noted that under then-President Obama he voted to confirm Justice Sonia Sotomayor and that he backed "almost 70 percent of the judges nominated by President Obama... during my time in office."
Democrats have accused Republicans of rank hypocrisy for moving to fill the Ginsburg seat after blocking the Supreme Court nomination of D.C. Circuit Judge Merrick Garland several months ahead of the 2016 presidential election.
Toomey, a Republican senator in a swing-state with a Democratic governor, was the last apparently outstanding potential Republican defection to weigh in on whether the Senate should move ahead with filling the Supreme Court vacancy with the presidential election just weeks away. His statement comes after a bevy of moderate or electorally vulnerable Republicans also supported the GOP plan to move ahead with a confirmation before the election.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said earlier Tuesday that he would vote for a nominee from President Trump if that nominee is qualified, as did Sens. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Cory Gardner, R-Colo., on Monday. Toomey's statement further solidifies the GOP's advantage in the confirmation math ahead of Trump's expected nomination of a Ginsburg successor on Saturday.
The only two Republicans to say that they will do not support moving ahead with a confirmation so close to the election are Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.
"In order for the American people to have faith in their elected officials, we must act fairly and consistently -- no matter which political party is in power," Collins said in a statement. "I do not believe that the Senate should vote on the nominee prior to the election. In fairness to the American people, who will either be re-electing the President or selecting a new one, the decision on a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court should be made by the President who is elected on November 3."
Moderate Democratic Sens. Doug Jones, D-Ala., and Joe Manchin, D-W.V., also said they opposed moving a nominee during the presidential election. But the GOP does not need their votes, nor does it need those of Murkowski or Collins. Republicans can lose three votes and still be able to put a Trump nominee across the finish line. Collins and Murkowski make two, meaning there is room for one unexpected GOP defection and Vice President Mike Pence would still be able to break a 50-50 tie vote.
Despite the momentum shifting early this week in favor of Republicans, Democrats are readying for what is likely to be one of the nastiest fights in recent American political history over whoever Trump nominates to succeed Ginsburg. Both sides are signaling they will spend millions of dollars on messaging as not just the presidency but majority control of the Senate hangs in the balance in the Nov. 3 election.