President Donald Trump weighed in on an issue of continuous political speculation this week when he confirmed that he would move to fill a U.S. Supreme Court vacancy should one open prior to the end of his first term.
He made the comment during a radio interview with host Hugh Hewitt on Tuesday.
“First serious question”
Democratic Party leaders have been vocal in their opposition to such a move, in large part because of the effort in 2016 by Republican senators to block the confirmation of Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s nominee to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has indicated that he would also support confirmation hearings ahead of November’s election despite his position against considering Garland during the previous presidential election year.
Hewitt directly asked Trump about the matter during this week’s interview.
“First serious question, in the last five months of this term, for the last five months of your second term, if you get one, would you make a nomination to fill a vacancy that occurred on the Supreme Court?” the host asked.
“Absolutely, I’d do it,” Trump responded. “Sure. It depends.”
“I’ll be interested”
He went on to clarify that he “would move quickly” to nominate a candidate if a seat opens on the bench before the end of his first term, suggesting a Democratic president would do the same.
“Why not?” he asked. “I mean, they would. The Democrats would if they were in this position. But you know, I’ll be interested.”
Asked a similar question last year, McConnell was unequivocal, asserting that the GOP would “fill it” if faced with a Supreme Court vacancy. He reiterated that position earlier this year — but not all Republicans in the Senate are on board.
“When Republicans held off Merrick Garland it was because nine months prior to the election was too close, we needed to let people decide,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). “And I agreed to do that. If we now say that months prior to the election is OK when nine months was not, that is a double standard and I don’t believe we should do it. So I would not support it.”
The president says he has an “excellent” candidate already in mind, though, and with the backing of McConnell it seems clear that the administration would not pass up the opportunity to name a third justice to the nation’s highest court.