U.S. Sen. David Perdue indicated Sunday he supported President Donald Trump’s push for a speedy vote on a Supreme Court nomination after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, becoming the latest vulnerable Republican to echo his party leaders calling for a quick confirmation.
“I am confident that President Trump will nominate another highly-qualified candidate who will strictly uphold the Constitution," Perdue said. “Once the president announces a nomination, the United States Senate should begin the process that moves this to a full Senate vote.”
Both Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have called for a confirmation this year, and Perdue’s statement indicated he would support the president’s nominee. He didn’t distinguish whether he supported a vote before the November election or during a lame-duck session, and his aides said the senator had no say over the timing.
Allies of the first-term lawmaker, facing a serious challenge from Democrat Jon Ossoff, contended his support for an election-year vote now is different from 2016, when Perdue and other Senate Republicans opposed President Barack Obama’s effort to fill a vacancy months before the presidential election.
Ginsburg’s death on Friday triggered the start of a brutal Supreme Court nomination fight that upends the presidential race and down-ticket contests in Georgia. It also shifted the spotlight in the U.S. Senate, where Republicans have a 53-47 edge, to a small group of lawmakers who will settle the battle.
So far, two Republican senators have opposed McConnell’s plan to move forward with a nomination before the Nov. 3 election: Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Both noted that Senate Republicans blocked Obama’s nominee to fill a vacancy in 2016, Merrick Garland, because they said it was too close to the presidential election.
Other GOP senators in close races, including fellow Georgian Kelly Loeffler, have signaled their support for a swift vote.
Democrats were poised to blast Perdue as a hypocrite. In 2016, he repeatedly endorsed McConnell’s effort to reject a vote on Garland, saying at one point that “no Supreme Court nominee should be considered by the Senate before the next president is sworn into office.”'
Perdue was “ADAMANT in 2016 that, as a matter of principle, a SCOTUS confirmation mustn’t proceed in an Election Year,” Ossoff tweeted before Perdue announced his decision. “I fully expect him to violate his so-called ‘principles’ within days, if not hours.”
Polls show a close race between Perdue and Ossoff, who owns an investigative journalism firm, and the Republican can ill afford to infuriate the conservative voters he’s long courted. Still, he risks alienating moderate voters, particularly in Atlanta’s suburbs, who helped Democrats flip a congressional seat in 2018 and nearly defeat Republican Brian Kemp.
The Republican’s campaign pushed back at accusations of a double standard, with Perdue spokesman John Burke saying the scenario in 2016 was different because the White House was held by Democrats and the Senate was controlled by Republicans.
“Obama and Biden were lame ducks who tried to ram through a nominee in a desperate power grab," he said. “President Trump is not a lame duck, he will serve another four years.”
Trump is trailing Democrat Joe Biden in national polls and in many surveys of battleground states, though Republicans hope the vacancy upends the race.
In a statement, Perdue said he had little other choice to fend off Democrats who want to “radically reshape our nation’s highest court.”
“If Democrats take control of the Senate, they have said they will add four seats and pack it with activist judges,” he said. "The choice for the future of the Supreme Court is clear, and our nation’s founding principles are at stake.”