WASHINGTON - The coming battle over a Supreme Court nominee promises to be a bruising one.
Republicans are eager for conservatives to gain a firm majority on the court. Democrats are voicing alarm about what the new justice could mean for charged issues such as abortion rights and gay rights.
Trump planned to announce his pick Monday night. Regardless of his choice, it’s likely that the closely divided Senate will be holding a momentous confirmation vote just weeks before the midterm election.
A look at what to expect:
Finding the votes
Republicans may have a narrower margin for error than they did when the Senate confirmed Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, by a vote of 54-45 in April 2017.
If Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska vote “no” and Democrats all vote “no,” the nomination would be blocked. If Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona were to miss the vote, only one GOP defection would be needed to block the nomination if all Democrats were opposed.
Democrats are still stinging from Republicans refusing to even grant a hearing to President Barack Obama’s choice to serve on the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland.
They are calling on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to wait until after the November election to schedule a hearing and vote. McConnell has rejected that possibility, saying the decision to not fill the vacancy under Obama was prefaced on it being a presidential election year.
Democrats say McConnell is being hypocritical in moving forward with the nomination. While that argument won’t sway Republicans, their strategy could stiffen Democratic resolve to oppose the nominee.
Much of the groundwork for a successful confirmation comes in private meetings that the nominee will have with individual senators in the coming weeks. For lawmakers who are not on the Judiciary Committee, it may be their only chance to talk with the nominee personally before a final vote. Gorsuch met with nearly three-quarters of the Senate in advance of his hearings.
The fight outside the Captiol
Before the president has even made his announcement, advocacy groups are making clear they will play an important role in the coming fight.
Groups that support abortion rights are planning a “Day of Action” for August 26, the anniversary of the 1920 adoption of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote.
The liberal advocacy group Demand Justice will spend $5 million on ads through September and began airing spots Thursday in Maine and Alaska aimed at pressuring Collins and Murkowski.