Sen. Mitt Romney — whom President Donald Trump this month called “our worst senator” — may hold the key to whether Trump can force a quick Senate vote before the election to put his upcoming nominee on the Supreme Court to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Friday.
Romney may reveal his stand as soon as Tuesday. He office said he will wait at least until the Senate reconvenes that day to make a statement on the issue.
Romney is a key because Republicans hold a 53-47 edge in the Senate — so at least four Republicans would need to defect to prevent a vote on a Trump nominee before the election. It may take just three defections after the Nov. 3 election if Democrat Mark Kelly wins a special election in Arizona and takes office as soon as Nov. 30.
Two GOP senators — Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine — say the next president should fill the vacancy, maintaining an argument Republicans used to block President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland before the 2016 election.
Because Romney was the only Republican who voted to impeach Trump — and is a frequent critic of his foreign policy and his inflammatory tweets — he is seen as perhaps the most likely defector on the issue.
While Romney, the 2012 GOP nominee for president, is conservative and backs Republican values, he may have trouble with the fairness or possibly hypocrisy of proceeding with confirmation of a Republican now after blocking Garland in 2016 by arguing it was too close to an election.
Romney has been silent on the issue so far.
Jim Dabakis, a former Utah Democratic Party chairman and state senator, tweeted over the weekend that a Romney insider told him the senator is committed not to confirm a nominee until after the inauguration of the next president, and added the hashtag #Mittrevenge.
But Liz Johnson, spokeswoman for Romney, quickly responded online saying, “This is grossly false.”
Some worried conservatives were openly calling for Romney to stick with other Republican senators.
The national news media speculated that besides Romney, Gardner and Grassley might also vote to defect.
Grassley, an Iowa Republican who is a former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has argued strongly previously for the Republicans’ 2016 position that a Supreme Court vacancy should not be filled in an election year.
In a call with Iowa reporters in July, Grassley said if Trump nominates a replacement before the election, he would not recommend holding a hearing on that candidate. He made that comment when Ginsburg, a four-time cancer survivor, announced she was again undergoing chemotherapy.
Supporting a quick vote could also cause political problems for Gardner, who is in a tight reelection race in politically competitive Colorado. Such a stand may offend some voters he needs to win.
A quote by Trump in April about Romney might also come back to haunt him now as he may need the senator to allow a vote on his upcoming nominee.
Where will Mitt Romney come down on a quick vote on Supreme Court nominee? /p>