Though Republicans hold a 53-47 Senate majority, its makeup could change before the start of the 117th Congress on Jan. 3, 2021, possibly complicating the GOP’s push to confirm another Supreme Court justice.
If Mark Kelly, the Democratic senatorial nominee in Arizona, wins his election against GOP Sen. Martha McSally on Nov. 3, he could take office later that month, which would narrow Republicans’ majority. A vacancy on the Court opened when Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed Friday evening from pancreatic cancer at the age of 87.
Since the contest is a special election to finish the term of the late Arizona Sen. John McCain, the winner can be sworn in as soon as each Arizona county certifies its election results. Kelly has held a consistent lead over McSally in the polls, and the Cook Political Report rates the race as “lean Democrat.”
President Donald Trump said Saturday that he would nominate Ginsburg’s replacement “without delay,” and said Monday morning on Fox News’s “Fox and Friends” that the announcement would come at the end of this week, according to The Hill. However, it is unknown how quickly the confirmation process will proceed, especially with Democrats floating the possibility delaying it.
If Kelly is sworn in, only three Republicans would need to defect to block Trump’s nominee.
The Arizona Senate race just became the race of history.
Dem Mark Kelly is leading, and due to Az state law and senate practices could be sworn in as early as Nov 30th.
So Kelly would be seated during lame duck as McConnell tries to force SCOTUS vote. https://t.co/eBIdjmL8xu
— Sarah Reese Jones (@PoliticusSarah) September 19, 2020
Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska have already said that they will oppose any nominee until after the presidential inauguration in January, meaning that only one more Republican would need to defect if Kelly was sworn in before a vote. (RELATED: Lindsey Graham Backtracks, Says He’ll Support Trump’s SCOTUS Nominee)
In a statement Saturday, Kelly said that he believed the candidate who wins on Nov. 3 should choose the next justice, NBC News reported.
“When it comes to making a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, Washington shouldn’t rush that process for political purposes,” he said. “I believe the people elected to the presidency and Senate in November should fill this vacancy.”
McSally has said that she will support whoever Trump nominates, tweeting Friday that “this U.S. Senate should vote on President Trump’s next nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court.”
A similar but less likely scenario could also occur in Georgia, where a special election to decide who serves the remainder of former GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson’s term will take place on Election Day. Over 20 candidates have challenged incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler for the seat.
If any single Democratic candidate in the race wins over 50% of the vote on Nov. 3, they could be sworn in early as well, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, though the scenario is less likely due to the multiple Democrats in the race and Georgia’s Republican lean.
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