Utah senator Mitt Romney said on Tuesday morning that he would go ahead with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s plan to hold a vote on President Trump’s soon-to-be-unveiled Supreme Court pick, putting to ultimate rest the idea that enough Republicans would dissent and punt the process until 2021.
In a statement, Romney — who earlier this year voted to convict the president at his impeachment trial — framed his decision in lofty terms, pointing to the Constitution and precedent as his guiding lights. Unlike many of his colleagues, Romney was not in the Senate in 2016, so he is immune to the charges of bald hypocrisy that have dogged many of his colleagues who refused to give Merrick Garland a hearing that year. But Romney did endorse McConnell’s tortured, invented reasoning from four years ago as if it were gospel: “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 wrote. And the ideological bent of Trump’s nominee is unlikely to bother Romney, who once famously described himself as “severely conservative.”
Democrats need four Republicans to go against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s plan, and even before Romney’s decision, that prospect appeared to be out of the question. Only Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and Maine’s Susan Collins have dissented, with every other Republican who could conceivably be on the fence giving their go-ahead. Whether it’s before the election on November 3 or during the lame-duck session, Republicans are extremely likely to install another hard-right judge on the Supreme Court by the end of President Trump’s term.