WASHINGTON (CN) — Mitt Romney, the only Republican to convict President Donald Trump at the Senate’s impeachment trial this year, said Tuesday he will consider the president’s next U.S. Supreme Court nominee.
“My decision regarding a Supreme Court nomination is not the result of a subjective test of ‘fairness’ which, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder,” Romney said in a statement this morning. “It is based on the immutable fairness of following the law, which in this case is the Constitution and precedent.”
He added: “Accordingly, I intend to follow the Constitution and precedent in considering the president’s nominee.”
Earlier today, Trump tweeted that he would announce his pick Saturday at the White House.
The late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died Friday evening, creating the high court vacancy, with less than two months to go before voters will decide whether to give Trump a second term.
For Democrats, the focus of Trump and the Republican-controlled Senate to quickly confirm Ginsburg’s successor is at odds with the their position in 2016 when then-President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland was torpedoed over GOP objections about politicizing the process in an election year.
Just 83 minutes after Ginsburg death, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that lawmakers would vote on any candidate Trump put forward.
Romney, who represents Utah, was considered to be one of the last lawmakers undecided on that vote after Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado announced Monday he would support Trump’s nominee.
“When a president exercises constitutional authority to nominate a judge for the Supreme Court vacancy, the Senate must decide how to best fulfill its Constitutional duty of advice and consent,” Gardner said in a statement.
Romney, answering questions from reporters Tuesday, said it was important to look at the precedent of Supreme Court nominations, which have gone largely unchanged since the beginning of American history. In circumstances where a nominee “is from a different party than the Senate,” he said, “more often than not, the Senate does not confirm.”
“So, the Garland decision was consistent with that and the decision to proceed now with president Trump’s nominee is also consistent with history,” Romney said. “I came down on the side of the Constitution and precedent as I’ve studied it and made the decision on that basis.”
Senator Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, told Capitol Hill reporters Tuesday she would vote against Trump’s nominee, if that person made it through the Senate Judiciary committee’s hearing process.
“My statement was a model of clarity. … I made it very clear, yes, that I did not think there should be a vote prior to the election,” Collins said. “And if there is one, I would oppose the nominee.”
Collins’ announcement comes as she jockeys for reelection amid reports that she is trailing her Democratic challenger Sara Gideon by 5 points. After the senator had indicated Saturday that she would at least consider vetting Trump’s nominee, Politico reported Monday that the senator’s announcement did not appear to change her polling numbers. Walking back that statement Tuesday, Collins said she is focused on McConnell’s comments in 2016 when he refused to consider Garland’s nomination.
“Not because I might not support that nominee under normal circumstances, but we’re simply too close to the election, and in the interest of being fair to the American people — and consistent, since it was with the Garland nomination,” she said.
As far as potential nominees go, Romney said he would be looking for a candidate who was highly qualified, preferring candidates who were “strict constructionists,” meaning they study the law’s and constitutional text, “opposed to sort of, looking into the sky and pulling out ideas that they think might be more appropriate than either the law or the Constitution.”
“I recognize that we may have a court that has more of a conservative bend then it’s had over the last few decades,” he said. “But my liberal friends have, over many decades, gotten very used to having a liberal court and that’s not written in the stars.”
Romney said he hasn’t intensely studied a list of potential nominees Trump first published while campaigning for office in 2016. Earlier this month Amy Coney Barrett, who many consider is the frontrunner for the seat, was among 20 names Trump added to a growing list. Romney said he’d still have to examine her legal qualifications.
“I haven’t reviewed her judicial record to this point and will look forward to doing so, if she’s the nominee,” he said.
A devout Catholic and member of the federalist society, Barrett, 48, clerked for former Justice Scalia and graduated with honors from Notre Dame Law school in 1997. She co-authored a law school review that year claiming Catholic judges are “morally precluded” from enforcing the death penalty, again highlighting her faith during a confirmation hearing in 2017.