WASHINGTON — Can a U.S. Supreme Court justice be appointed and confirmed during an election year?
The answer is yes.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Friday the Senate will vote on President Donald Trump’s pick to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, even though the 2020 election is 46 days away.
The Republican Senate leader issued a statement about an hour and a half after the Supreme Court announced the liberal justice’s death from complications of metastatic pancreatic cancer.
To fill a Supreme Court vacancy, the sitting president nominates a candidate and the Senate votes to confirm the nominee by a simple majority.
McConnell has said he would not oppose helping to confirm a Supreme Court nominee of Trump’s choosing if a seat opened up during this year’s election cycle, though he blocked Barack Obama’s Supreme Court pick during the presidential campaign in 2016, according to the USA Today.
Then, Obama nominated Merrick Garland, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, to succeed Justice Antonin Scalia.
McConnell, R-Ky., advocated for waiting until the next president took office, allowing the Senate to “give the people a voice in the filling of this vacancy.” The seat remained vacant until after Trump’s presidential victory.
In 1988, the Democratic-controlled Senate voted 97-0 to confirm Anthony Kennedy to the high court during the last year of Republican Ronald Reagan’s presidency.
Last week, Trump announced he is adding 20 names to a list of Supreme Court candidates that he’s pledged to choose from if a vacancy arose, a strategy that has been seen as key to his appeal among conservative voters.
The list includes Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Josh Hawley of Missouri as well as Christopher Landau, the current ambassador to Mexico, and Noel Francisco, the Trump administration’s top Supreme Court lawyer.
“Every one of these individuals will ensure equal justice, equal treatment and equal rights for citizens of every race, color, religion and creed,” Trump said.
Currently, the nation’s high court has a 5-4 conservative majority, and Ginsburg’s death could lead to a further shift to the right.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.