Following the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Democrats have been in a frenzy figuring out how to prevent Senate Republicans from confirming her replacement. They’ve dumped millions into Senate races and called Republican senators imploring them to stand by the so-called McConnell Rule: a refusal to confirm a nominee or hold hearings during an election year until the next president is inaugurated, named after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s refusal to proceed with hearings to confirm President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland in 2016. But this frantic haze has made voters vulnerable to falling for a familiar naïveté.
The internet is awash with rumors about which Republican senators are opposed to filling the Supreme Court vacancy, and the same names have cropped up repeatedly: Senators Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney, and even Chuck Grassley.
On Saturday, Collins released a statement saying that she does not believe the Senate should confirm a nominee before the election, adding that, “In fairness to the American people... the decision on a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court should be made by the President who is elected on November 3rd.”
During an interview prior to Ginsburg’s death, Murkowski reportedly offered a more forceful perspective. “I would not vote to confirm a Supreme Court nominee,” Murkowski said. “We are 50 some days away from an election.” And though Romney’s name has been offered as another possible Trump defector, he’s been silent on the matter. And while Grassley supported the McConnell Rule in 2016 and, during a 2018 Fox News interview, said he wouldn’t “take it up” with the Senate Judiciary Committee, he hasn’t gone public with a decision on the matter since Ginsburg’s death.
But why should anyone put any stock into what any of these Republicans have to say? Why, after the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh, would anyone believe that they are not going to follow their party’s leadership?
Romney, despite his ire toward Trump, is still a staunch conservative and is not the ally many liberals wish him to be. Plus, it’s hard to imagine that Romney objects to the staunchly anti-choice judge rumored to be Ginsburg’s replacement. Murkowski’s opposition to the Obamacare replacement bill in 2017 may leave her in the good graces of many Democrats, but her “present” vote during the Kavanaugh hearings was about political expediency above all else. And anyone who thinks they can trust a single word that comes out of Collins’s mouth—especially after her strong support of Kavanaugh—is kidding themselves. Besides, words matter: Collins saying what she thinks “should” happen is not a commitment against voting for Ginsburg’s replacement before the inauguration.
Their promises mean nothing. Their past declarations mean nothing. Their feelings about Donald Trump mean nothing. Exerting an iota of energy believing a handful of Republicans who are unfairly lauded as outliers in their party is a waste. Expecting them to care about their own hypocrisy is an even bigger one. Go ahead and flood Collins and Romney with calls—it certainly can’t hurt—but don’t be surprised if their position on filling the Supreme Court vacancy confirms that, at the end of the day, a Republican is a Republican.