Done deal. Mitch McConnell can afford to lose only three members of his caucus on the final confirmation vote for Amy Coney Barrett, and only two if Mike Pence isn’t standing by. Susan Collins has already announced her intention to vote no, which Allahpundit covered in the previous post. Lisa Murkowski’s position is still, er, murky. The only other Republican in the Senate which might be contrarian enough to put Pence on alert is Mitt Romney.
And now he’s an aye:
Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney said he will vote to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, after being the lone Republican to vote to convict President Trump during the impeachment hearings.
“After meeting with Judge Barrett and carefully reviewing her record and her testimony, I intend to vote in favor of her confirmation to the Supreme Court,” Romney said in a statement released Thursday. “She is impressive, and her distinguished legal and academic credentials make it clear that she is exceptionally well qualified to serve as our next Supreme Court justice.”
He added: “I am confident that she will faithfully apply the law and our Constitution, impartially and regardless of policy preferences.”
The Hill reported yesterday morning that McConnell sounded confident:
“She’ll come out of committee next Thursday … and we’ll go to the floor with her on Friday the 23rd and stay on it until we finish,” McConnell told reporters in Kentucky.
“We have the votes,” he added, when asked if Republicans would be able to confirm Barrett.
McConnell’s remarks are the latest signal that Barrett’s nomination to succeed the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is on a glide path after she avoided landmines during her three-day appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week.
Romney was likely an aye on this from the start, but chose to play his cards carefully. It seems doubtful that he was worried about Barrett as a candidate, or concerned that a poor hearing performance would leave him twisting in the wind after a too-early declaration of support. Most likely, Romney wanted to model deliberative behavior in which one waits for the proper point in a process to declare a decision. That would certainly go along with his call for greater comity in public life, a not-so-subtle jab at you know who.
That takes some pressure off of Murkowski, who can now vote either way without being the potential dealmaker/dealbreaker on the confirmation. Assuming everyone can show up for the vote, McConnell has at least 51 votes. Can he get more? Thus far Democrats are standing on the same objection as Collins, a process argument that Trump and Republicans should have let the seat remain open until after the election. That argument, however, isn’t actually getting any traction among voters, according to a Morning Consult poll this week. Barrett’s hearing is likely to increase support for her confirmation, which might make some red-state Democrats think twice about casting a nay, even those who might not be up for re-election this year.
That’s especially true for Joe Manchin and maybe Doug Jones, who is up this year but likely doomed either way. If he wants to run for another office in Alabama, a vote against Barrett might become a long-term impediment. Perhaps Jones and Manchin both would be better advised to be unavailable when the floor vote takes place. Or maybe, just maybe, some Senate Democrats will cross over to demonstrate some of the comity Romney encouraged this week after satisfying themselves with opposition on the procedural votes. But I doubt it.