SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — All indications are that President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will move ahead with a Supreme Court nominee. So the first question is: what if they succeed?
“Republican senators, this is the most important thing,” said San Francisco State University political science professor Jason McDaniel. “They’ve been talking about this for decades.”
McDaniel believes there is very little doubt McConnell will take his shot. The big questions now surround the math in the U.S. Senate.
“He’s got a three-vote majority,” McDaniel explained. “He can lose three votes, Murkowski, Collins, Romney, Gardner, something like that, Thom Tillis. He can lose three of those and still get a vote because this can’t be filibustered.”
Then there’s Arizona’s special election for the seat once held by John McCain. If Democrat Mark Kelly wins, he could be seated as soon as the vote is finalized.
“And he’s way ahead right now,” McDaniel said. “So that means if he wins that race and they try to do it in the lame duck session, that might lower McConnell’s math to only a two-seat majority.”
But math can always get more complicated and that might be the case if Republicans do confirm a Trump nominee.
“A lot of Democrats are talking right now that if they do this, if they go forward with this, they’re going to put four more new justices on the Supreme Court,” McDaniel said of the possible aftermath of a confirmation. “So that’s another kind of math, right? 13 to 9.”
Talk of new justices and maybe new states such as Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico — these are ideas once considered “nuclear options.” Now they are openly discussed less than 24 hours after Justice Ginsburg’s death was announced.
“It will intensify politics even more,” McDaniel says of the court fight. “Some of the worst times in our country’s history, in terms of the politics, were court-packing under FDR and adding new states before and after the Civil War. We could be in for that kind of political environment now because of this.”