Republicans Eye Supreme Court Vote Week Before Election Day
WASHINGTON -- Republicans on were zeroing in on the week before Election Day for a Senate floor vote to confirm Ruth Bader Ginsberg's replacement to the Supreme Court, lawmakers said Wednesday.
The date is far from certain, and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has not set a date even to start hearings. He was expected to do so when President Trump announces his choice to fill the seat held since 1993 by the revered RBG, likely Friday or Saturday.
A Senate vote on Oct. 26 or 27 would require committee hearings to launch early the week of Oct 12. It would be an extremely compressed confirmation. Justice Brett Kavanaugh required more than a month from the start of his hearings until the Senate voted to put him on the high court.
Some Republicans leaving meetings on Capitol Hill Wednesday said the timeline still was just an option at this point, but said they liked it.
"I think this needs to take as long as it needs to take, but it doesn’t need to be drug out," Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of the GOP leadership, told reporters. "It looks like we’d be voting on this before the election -- I think that’s perfectly fine."
He allowed it might hard to "hit those marks," but others denied the speed was unusual.
"I think, in the modern era -- however one might define it -- hearings have taken 19 days in the past, so it doesn't strike me as particularly abbreviated," said Sen. Todd Young. (R-Ind.).
Others who agreed the timeline was fine, aimed their fire at Democrats, saying the minority would try to grind the process to a halt with procedural gimmicks in an illegitimate bid to thwart Trump.
"The Democrats are going to do everything they can possibly do to delay, because they want to pack the court," said Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) "They think they're going to win. I think they're wrong on all their counts."
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has vowed that "everything is on the table" when it comes to trying to stop the president from adding a conservative to the court, which would give the panel a 6-3 Republican tilt. The first sign of that was Tuesday, when Schumer invoked the rarely used "two-hour rule," which limits Senate hearings to just two hours in the morning. It's meant to give senators time for Senate floor work, but can also be used to slow committees down.
Democratic Whip Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) pushed back on GOP claims, saying Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was pushing the pace to excite Trump's base ahead of the election, and that corners inevitably would be cut.
He pointed to the normal process of having a nominee presented, then giving the Senate Judiciary Committee time to request voluminous materials from the nominee's past, and to evaluate that. Then there is usually a span where the judge holds meetings with individual senators to answer specific questions. Once the first hearings are held, there are usually follow-up questions that senators want answered in writing.
Often, questions come up that put the breaks on a speedy process, such at the sexual abuse allegations that surfaced against Kavanaugh.
"The notion that we can in four or five weeks do this anticipates a lot of things just clicking in place," said Durbin, who sits on the Judiciary Committee. "The question is whether or not they will follow the ordinary course. If they're determined to get through this, whatever, we saw with Kavanaugh that they'll just do it."
Republicans do have the power to circumvent the regular process. Durbin said Democrats would only be able to slow them down if "the chairman of the committee follows tradition and rules. If he does not, there isn't much we can do about it."