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6 questions about the Supreme Court confirmation chronology

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks Aug. 5 during a hearing on Capitol Hill. As the
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks Aug. 5 during a hearing on Capitol Hill. As the Senate Judiciary Committee leader, he will push for President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee and could start hearings immediately. (Erin Schaff/New York Times via AP)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has vowed that President Donald Trump’s nominee “will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.” Democrats say the Republicans’ vow to move forward is “hypocrisy” after McConnell refused to consider President Barack Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, several months before the 2016 election.

Will vote come before the Nov. 3 election?

Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate, and so far Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski have said they won’t support a confirmation vote before Election Day. That means McConnell can afford to lose only one more senator. If the vote were 50-50, Vice President Mike Pence could break the tie.

Who are the senators to watch and why?

Those facing close reelection contests in their states, including Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, will face pressure not to vote ahead of the election or in its immediate aftermath, especially if they were to lose their seats. Several other key GOP senators up for reelection including Martha McSally in Arizona, Kelly Loeffler in Georgia and Thom Tillis in North Carolina have already called for a swift vote.

Is confirmation realistic by Nov. 3?

Yes, but it would require a breakneck pace. Supreme Court nominations have taken about 70 days on average to move through the Senate, and the last, for Brett Kavanaugh, took longer. Some nominations, like Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s, moved more quickly. There are no set rules for how long the process should take.

Could the Senate vote after Nov. 3?

Yes. Republicans could vote on Trump’s nominee in what’s known as the lame-duck session after the November election and before the next Congress takes office Jan. 3. No matter what happens in the election, Republicans are still expected be in charge of the Senate during that period. The Senate would have until Jan. 20, the date of the presidential inauguration, to act on Trump’s nominee. If Trump were reelected and his pick had not been confirmed by the inauguration, he could renominate his choice.

What does it take to confirm a nominee?

Only a majority vote. Supreme Court nominations used to need 60 votes for confirmation if any senator objected, but McConnell changed Senate rules in 2017 to allow the confirmation of justices with 51 votes. He did so as Democrats threatened to filibuster Trump’s first nominee, Neil Gorsuch.

How does the Senate’s process work?

It is up to the Senate Judiciary Committee to vet the nominee and hold confirmation hearings. Once the committee approves the nomination, it goes to the Senate floor for a final vote. This process passes through several time-consuming steps, including meetings with individual senators. The committee chairman, GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, has said he will support Trump “in any effort to move forward.” His committee could begin working immediately and hold confirmation hearings in October,

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