Sen. Murkowski relaxes position on SCOTUS nominee, signals Trump pick is on the table

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Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski unexpectedly threw a wrench the size of the Grand Canyon into congressional Democrats’ plans to block President Donald Trump from confirming a replacement for the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Though she and Sen. Susan Collins had initially indicated they would vote against confirming the president’s still-unannounced nominee, she backtracked slightly while speaking outside the Capitol this Wednesday, according to Alaska Public Media.

“I know everybody wants to ask the question, ‘will you confirm the nominee?’ 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,” she said.

In other words, she’s left open the possibility that she may vote for the president’s nominee. It’s still unlikely, particularly given how she voted during the Kavanaugh debacle two years ago, but it’s better than a resounding “no.”

Though tellingly, it’s also a complete contradiction to what she’d said days earlier.

Just prior to Ginsburg’s highly politicized death last Friday, Murkowski told Alaska Public Media, “I would not vote to confirm a Supreme Court nominee. We are 50 some days away from an election.”

As for a reason why, she pointed to the alleged precedent set by Senate Majority Mitch McConnell in 2016 when he refused to allow for a vote on then-President Barack Hussein Obama’s replacement for Justice Antonin Scalia.

“That was too close to an election, and that the people needed to decide. That the closer you get to an election, that argument becomes even more important,” she said in what she thought was a rehashing of McConnell’s argument.

But it wasn’t.

The Senate leader’s argument was that during an election year, a Senate controlled by one party should not be forced to vote on the nominee of an opposing party.

In a speech delivered on the Senate floor this Monday, McConnell tried to explain this.

“Here is what I said on the Senate floor the very first session day after Justice Scalia passed. Quote: ‘The Senate has not filled a vacancy arising in an election year when there was divided government since 1888, almost 130 years ago,'” he recalled.

“Here is what I said the next day, when I spoke to the press for the first time on the subject: ‘[You] have to go back to 1888, when Grover Cleveland was president, to find the last time a vacancy created in a presidential-election year was approved by a Senate of a different party.'”

All of this is true.

“As of then, only six prior times in American history had a Supreme Court vacancy arisen in a presidential election year, and the President sent a nomination that year to a Senate of the opposite party,” he continued Monday.

“The majority of those times, the outcome was exactly what happened in 2016: No confirmation. The historically normal outcome in divided government.”


Dovetailing back to Murkowski’s contradictory remarks, she doubled down on her original sentiment in a statement made Sunday.

“Sadly, what was then a hypothetical is now our reality, but my position has not changed,” she said, referencing what she’d said before Ginsburg’s death.

“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. We are now even closer to the 2020 election — less than two months out — and I believe the same standard must apply.”

Yet three days later, she suddenly opened herself up to the possibility of voting to confirm, which just goes to demonstrate her long-established fickleness.

Of note is that her about-face came two days after Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz told the Washington Examiner in an interview that GOP voters should “withhold their votes from them” if they choose to “withhold” their confirmation votes.

Regardless, as of Thursday the only GOP senator who’d made a definitive decision on a potential confirmation vote was Collins. Even “turncoat” Utah Sen. Mitt Romney had pledged to vote on the president’s nominee.

“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,” he’d said in a statement Tuesday that left his former liberal groups fuming.



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