WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — As Senate Republicans meet Tuesday in their first formal gathering since the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sen. Mitt Romney has potentially cleared the path for a vote on President Trump’s nominee before the Nov. 3 election.
The Republican senator from Utah released a statement on Twitter, saying he won’t block a vote to confirm Trump’s Supreme Court pick.
“My decision regarding a Supreme Court nomination is not the result of a subjective test of ‘fairness’ which, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. It is based on the immutable fairness of following the law, which in this case is the Constitution and precedent,” Romney said in the statement.
Romney said, “If the nominee reaches the Senate floor, I intend to vote based upon their qualifications,”
Earlier Tuesday, President Trump confirmed that he would announce his pick Saturday at the White House.
Romney’s views had been closely watched after two other Republican senators – Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine – urged that a vote be delayed until after the election.
“I believe we should wait and see who the winner of the election is and not proceed with a vote,” Collins told reporters on Monday. “If the American people are going to have confidence in the fairness of the system, then I think that is the way that we should proceed.”
Republicans outnumber Democrats in the Senate, 53-47 and can confirm a justice by a simple majority. At least four Republicans would need to defect to prevent a vote on a Trump nominee.
Republican Senators Chuck Grassley and Cory Gardner had signaled their support to move forward quickly on Monday, the same day that Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham said they have enough votes to confirm Trump’s high court nominee.
Graham told Fox News late Monday that Republicans will be able to vote Trump’s Supreme Court pick before the Nov. 3 presidential election.
“We’re going to move forward in the committee, we’re going to report the nomination out of the committee to the floor of the United States Senate so we can vote before the election. That’s the constitutional process,” he said.
The Republican senator from South Carolina said he wouldn’t be intimidated by Democrats, who oppose any confirmation vote until a new president is inaugurated.
Senate Democrats, Chuck Schumer from New York and Dick Durbin from Illinois also held a press briefing Tuesday outside the Capitol to discuss their concerns for the next SCOTUS pick.
“Leader McConnell’s actions may now very well destroy the institution of the Senate,” said Schumer. “If McConnell presses forward the Republican party will have stolen two Supreme Court seats four years apart using completely contradictory rationales.”
“What we see happening in the Senate today with Senator McConnell’s decision to reverse his position of four years ago and to push through the vacancy filling in the nominee of the Trump administration is really an assault on all those things: history, tradition, rules and the mutual respect of the United States Senate,” said Durbin.
Democrats have criticized Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who had made it clear he’d usher through a vote this year. McConnell hasn’t specified when the vote may happen. On Tuesday, McConnell told reporters he has every intention to process the Supreme Court candidate expected to be announced on Saturday.
“The Senate has more than sufficient time to process a nomination. History and precedent make that perfectly clear,” McConnell said on the Senate floor on Monday.
In 2016, he refused to allow a vote on President Barack Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland during an election year.
Two years later, Democrats fought unsuccessfully to halt the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh over allegations that he’d committed sexual assault while in high school – allegations Kavanaugh denied.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.