Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake told reporters that Senate Republicans should take up the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to succeed the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Though Flake consistently supports putting Garland’s nomination up for a vote, Thursday he implied Republican nominee Donald Trump was likely to lose the November election. Therefore, the Senate should confirm Garland before Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has the opportunity to nominate a younger, more liberal nominee.
“I said if we were in a position like we were in in ’96 and we pretty much knew the outcome that we ought to move forward. But I think we passed that awhile ago,” Flake said. “If Hillary Clinton is president-elect then we should move forward with hearings in the lame duck. That’s what I’m encouraging my colleagues to do.”
“’96” refers to the presidential election of 1996, where congressional Republicans concluded President Bill Clinton would likely be reelected, and chose instead to focus on maintaining and expanding their majorities in Congress. In this case, Flake seems to have concluded (though he does not say so) that Donald Trump would lose, and his thinking on the topic proceeds from that assumption. (RELATED: McCain Says GOP Senate Will Block Hillary’s Supreme Court Nominees)
“I’m saying that I’m not one to deny polls, particularly when they are overwhelming,” Flake said.
Flake’s comments are especially important in that he sits on the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, the panel which holds hearings on judicial nominees before making a recommendation to the full Senate.
Another Republican on the panel, Sen. Mike Lee, allegedly told a closed-door luncheon hosted by the Federalist Society in July that the Senate may have no choice but to take up Hillary Clinton’s judicial nominees. Organizers deny that Lee ever made comments along those lines, and Lee now says he suspects Garland will vote in lock-step with the Court’s liberals.
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