In order to derail the Republican Party's Supreme Court scheme, four GOP senators would need to break ranks and stand in support of principle. As of yesterday morning, two Republicans -- Alaska's Lisa Murkowski and Maine's Susan Collins -- both committed to an honorable course.
The next obvious contender was Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who, as we've discussed, has frequently expressed discomfort with some of his party's more indefensible antics. In fact, it was earlier this year when Romney voted with Democrats to remove Donald Trump from office as a consequence of the president's illegal extortion scheme.
Will the Utahan decide eight months later that the Senate should nevertheless jam through Trump's choice, propriety be damned? The answer is coming into focus. Politico reported this morning:
Sen. Mitt Romney said he would support a floor vote on President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court, essentially clinching consideration of Trump’s nominee this year despite the impending election.... “I intend to follow the Constitution and precedent in considering the president’s nominee. If the nominee reaches the Senate floor, I intend to vote based upon their qualifications,” the Utah Republican said in a statement.
He didn't commit to voting for Trump's nominee, but he did endorse the process of considering the president's choice.
In other words, Romney simply intends to ignore the context, the calendar, the recent history, and the responsibility senators are supposed to have to act honorably. It's a reminder of a nagging detail that often goes overlooked: the senator may clash with Donald Trump, but Romney remains a Republican senator, who's fully committed to his party's far-right agenda -- and part of that agenda is moving the federal judiciary even further off the conservative cliff.
The Utahan, of course, is not alone. Several other GOP senators who were seen as possible "no" votes have scrambled to align themselves with their party and its president.
There are, to be sure, some Senate Republicans who have not yet officially announced their plans, but given the whip counts and the political backgrounds of the relevant players, there is no longer a realistic chance that two more GOP senators will balk at the party's plan.
That said, this is the opening stage of the fight. Senate Republicans are committing to moving forward with their scheme, but I fully expect the debate to intensify once there's a nominee, committee hearings, and a scheduled floor vote -- all of which is likely to unfold over the course of the next few weeks, even as millions of Americans cast ballots in the 2020 elections.