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Blunt backs plan on Supreme Court nomination in election year

Austin Huguelet Springfield News-Leader
Sen. Roy Blunt speaks at a March press conference at Jordan Valley Community Health Center. Blunt is backing the Republican effort to vote on a replacement for the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt backed fellow Republicans’ plans to try and confirm a new Supreme Court justice in an election year Sunday, waving off cries of hypocrisy from Democrats.

In an appearance on CBS’ "Face The Nation," Blunt was pressed to explain how replacing liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg this year is any different than Democrats’ attempt to replace conservative Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016, which Blunt helped stonewall.

Blunt said now Republicans are in control of both the White House and the Senate, which wasn’t the case in 2016 when Democratic President Barack Obama wanted a nominee confirmed in a Republican Senate.

“In the tradition of the country, when the Senate and the president were in political agreement, no matter what was the election situation, the judges went on the (Supreme) Court and other courts,” he said. “When they weren’t in agreement, they didn’t.”

“In this case, both the White House and the Senate have some obligation to do what they think … is the right thing to do,” he continued, “and there is a Senate majority put there by voters for reasons like this.”

Democrats have taken the opposite view of the situation, with many calling for a delay until voters have their say in the November election.

The choice of the next justice could shape American law for some time. Replacing Ginsburg with a Trump nominee would likely cement a 6-3 conservative majority that could impose new limits on abortion and minority rights and invalidate an Affordable Care Act reviled by the right.

“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said. “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president."

Two of 53 Republican senators — Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine — have agreed, and two more could block a vote.

“I do not support taking up a nomination eight months before the 2016 election,” Murkowski said in a statement. “We are now even closer to the 2020 election … and I believe the same standard must apply.”

But most Republicans have shown little interest in deferring to the minority and slowing things down.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., issued a statement within hours of Ginsburg’s death Friday pledging a vote on Trump’s nominee.

And President Donald Trump told a crowd in North Carolina on Saturday he would announce a nominee, and specifically a female nominee, in the coming week.

“It will be a woman,” Trump said. “I think it should be a woman because I actually like women much more than men.”

Top candidates include Judge Amy Coney Barrett of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, a favorite of conservatives opposed to abortion rights, as well as Judge Barbara Lagoa of the 11th Circuit, a Hispanic woman from swing-state Florida.

Blunt noted he’d voted for Barrett before when she was confirmed to the Seventh Circuit and said he’d be “pleased to vote for her as a justice on the Supreme Court.”

But he also allowed that Lagoa received a large majority of votes in her confirmation as well and said there are plenty of good choices out there.

“I’m sure the president’s going to make one, I look forward to the name he sends up and what they may add to the court,” he said.

It was not immediately clear whether Republicans would move for a vote before Election Day, though.

Blunt said it’s possible that could happen but did not guarantee any specific timeline.

Republicans could also take a vote in the lame-duck session that takes place after the elections but before newly elected members take their seats.

Sen. Josh Hawley, Missouri’s junior senator, also weighed in on the confirmation fight this weekend, noting he has vowed to oppose any nominee who doesn't believe Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion, was wrongly decided.

"I stand by that commitment, and I call on my fellow Republican senators to take the same stand," he wrote on Twitter.

ahuguelet@news-leader.com

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