With a tight battle looming to confirm Trump nominee Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court justice, one Republican senator may make a sacrifice to push the nominee through.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) could finally step down — and have someone appointed in his place — if he is not well enough to make the trip to Washington to vote in favor of the nominee, ABC analyst Alex Castellanos reported on Tuesday.
“There’s some word that if McCain is not able to vote and his vote is needed, he might resign and let someone appoint a senator who would support this judge,” Castellanos said. If McCain were to step down, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, would appoint a replacement.
McCain’s health complicates confirmation battle
Kavanaugh, a federal judge, was nominated by President Donald Trump on Monday to fill the spot soon to be vacated by the retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy. Due to a 2017 change in rules by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Republicans need only a 51-vote simple majority to confirm Kavanaugh — which is exactly the number of Senate members that are Republicans, including McCain — but with only a slim majority, every vote counts.
Speculation about McCain’s resignation has circulated since the ailing senator announced that he was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer last summer. But with a Supreme Court nomination vote on the horizon, the consequences of his illness have taken on greater significance.
McCain hasn’t returned to the Capitol since leaving for Arizona in December, where he has been convalescing from treatment. That has left some conservatives worried that the vote will be 50-49 at best, leaving Republicans in a tight spot.
But despite his frequent opposition to Trump and his party — McCain cast an infamous eleventh hour vote to sink an Obamacare skinny repeal last summer — the senator expressed support for Kavanaugh after the nomination was announced on Monday, saying:
In selecting Judge Brett Kavanaugh to fill the vacancy left by Justice Kennedy, President Trump has chosen a nominee with impeccable credentials and a strong record of upholding the Constitution.
One of the Senate’s highest constitutional responsibilities is to provide advice and consent on nominations to the Supreme Court, and I look forward to the Senate fulfilling this critical duty through a fair and thorough confirmation process.
Vulnerable senators become key votes
Castellanos reported that McCain’s endorsement shouxld reassure Republicans that Kavanaugh is in “just about zero danger” of not getting confirmed. Some Republican senators who have been eyed as potential votes against the nominee, including Senate Judiciary Committe member and junior Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, have even indicated they will support the nominee.
Flake two weeks ago that he would oppose Trump’s judicial nominees, but would make an exception for the Supreme Court.
“No issue unites Republicans like this,” Castellanos said.
Two Republican senators who support abortion, Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AL), are also being watched. The two sided with McCain in sinking the Obamacare repeal last summer.
On the other hand, Democrats in red states that Trump won, including Sens. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, will be under pressure to vote for the nominee. Castellanos pointed to Doug Jones, Democratic Senator from Alabama who beat Roy Moore in a special election last year, as another vulnerable Democrat.
McCain has often rattled Republicans with his obstructionist politics, but resigning to confirm Kavanaugh would be an honorable finish to his career. He should redeem himself in the eyes of millions of Republicans and call it quits.