The White House said Sunday that President Trump will announce a Supreme Court nominee soon but will let Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) determine the calendar for a potential confirmation vote.
Trying to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Friday, before the election or in the lame-duck session afterward would be a rushed process — and extremely contentious, especially given that McConnell blocked President Barack Obama's nominee in early 2016 on the grounds that voters should decide who gets to pick the nominee in an election year.
Two Republican senators, Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Susan Collins (Maine), have publicly opposed filing Ginsburg's seat before the next president is chosen, and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) — who chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2016 — suggested in August he would oppose holding hearings if a seat opened up before the election. Four Republicans have to oppose Trump's pick for the nomination to fail. But if McConnell waits until the lame-duck session, that number might fall to three, thanks to Arizona's Senate race.
Former astronaut Mark Kelly, the Democratic nominee, is leading Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) in most or all polls, and if he wins on Nov. 3, he could be sworn in by Nov. 30, NBC News reports. That's because this is actually a special election to fill the seat vacated when Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) died. McSally was sent to Congress by Gov. Doug Ducey (R-Ariz.), not the voters, and state law says the winner of the election will take office once the results are certified. It's possible Ducey or McConnell could try to slow the process if Kelly wins.
Ginsburg's dying wish was for the president inaugurated next January to pick her successor. "But the decision of when to nominate does not lie with her," Marc Short, chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, said Sunday.