As if there was any question about it, Alaska U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan confirmed today that he supports a vote on President Donald Trump’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In a year where we’ve seen hypocrisy from Republicans who blocked the nomination of Merrick Garland ahead of the 2016 election, Sullivan offered perhaps the most straight-forward explanation of why such a vote so close to the 2020 election is permissible: Trump is a Republican.
“The historical precedent and principle of an election year nomination to the Supreme Court, dating back to the founding of our republic, is that the Senate has generally confirmed a President’s nominee from its own party and not confirmed one from the opposing party,” Sullivan said in a prepared statement.
In 2016, Sullivan said it was principle that barred him from even considering a vote on Obama’s nomination of Garland to the high court. Of the vacancy, at the time he said, “I think one of the most important things we can do is let the American people, and let the Alaskan people, decide.” But under his updated idea of principle, it was because Obama was a Democrat (hey, at least he’s finally admitting it).
Now, with the potential to tip the balance of the Supreme Court to a 6-3 conservative majority Sullivan has changed his tune about voter input on the high court. His statement released today makes no reference voters or haring input from Alaskans.
“President Trump is well within his constitutional authority to nominate an individual for the Supreme Court vacancy, and the Senate will undertake its advice and consent responsibilities on confirmation, as authorized by the Constitution,” he said, “I have a long record of voting to confirm judges to the federal judiciary who will interpret the law, not make new law, and who will respect the values of Alaskans, particularly as it relates to a robust respect for the Second Amendment, access to our lands, the rights of Alaska Natives, and a skeptical view of the power of federal agencies.”
Though Senate Republicans are pushing ahead to quickly fill the court before the 2020 elections may see their hold on the White House and U.S. Senate slip away, some have warned that such a move may ensure those losses especially in tight races.
“In four surveys—of adults, registered voters and likely voters—conducted after Ginsburg died, majorities of respondents nationally and in swing states said that the winner of the presidential election should nominate her successor,” explains an editorial by Wall Street Journal columnist William Galston. “The president’s commitment to make his choice public by the end of the week may not play well with voters outside his base, especially if he pushes for a vote before the election. And it may energize Democrats on the issue as never before.”
That’s certainly been the case in Alaska, where Democrat-backed independent U.S. Senate candidate Al Gross reported raising $3 million following a progressive fundraising spree over the weekend. Though official campaign fundraising numbers aren’t due for another two weeks, the cash injection may allow Gross to take the cash lead on the race.
Polling conducted at the end of August put the race between Gross and Sullivan tied at 43-43.
Sullivan has a negative favorability rating according to that poll and is particularly underwater among women. Gross is stilly relatively unknown but has a net favorable rating among polled voters.
Alaska U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski says she opposes a vote before the election, saying “fair is fair” after the Senate blocked the nomination of Garland in 2016. She said today, though, that if her colleagues are dead-set on a vote that she’s unsure how she will vote until the nominee is announced and vetted.
“We don’t have a nominee yet. You and I don’t know who that is. And so I can’t confirm whether or not I can confirm a nominee when I don’t know who the nominee is,” she said today. ““I do not support this process moving forward. Now, having said that, this process is moving forward with or without me.”