“President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate,” McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said in a statement Friday evening that sets GOP lawmakers on a collision path with Democrats, though the exact timing of such a fight was not immediately clear.
GOP aides are skeptical that there is enough time to confirm a nominee before November 3, given that Supreme Court nominees typically take two to three months to process, according to a review of recent confirmation proceedings.
But that process could be sped up if McConnell, who controls the majority of the chamber, has the votes to confirm a replacement, and there is enough time to confirm someone in a lame-duck session of Congress after the November elections.
That calculation is further complicated if Republicans lose control of the Senate and the White House after the election — and whether enough GOP senators would break ranks and oppose any nominee by a President who had just lost his election and a GOP Senate that just lost its majority.
Senate Republicans, who hold the majority in the upper chamber, only need 51 votes to confirm a new justice once one is formally nominated. Currently, there are 53 GOP senators — meaning they can only lose three Republicans. In the event of a 50-50 split, Vice President Mike Pence could cast a tie-breaking vote.
Already, Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine have said that there is not enough time to confirm someone before November.
Collins told The New York Times earlier this monnth that she’d oppose seating a nominee in a lame-duck session if Joe Biden wins the White House.
It’s unclear if more Republicans would break ranks.
CNN has reached out to Collins, Murkowski and Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah — among others — to seek their position on the matter.
In July, Republican leaders signaled they would confirm a nominee this year.
“We will,” said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the second-ranking Republican leader, when asked if the Senate would fill a vacancy, even during the lame-duck session after the presidential election. “That would be part of this year. We would move on it.”
But Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham wasn’t sure if he would agree to that.
“I’d like to fill a vacancy. But we’d have to see. I don’t know how practical that would be,” Graham told CNN in July. “Let’s see what the market would bear.”
McConnell’s vow that a nominee would get a vote set up a clash with the top Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer of New York, who said earlier Friday that a Supreme Court vacancy “should not be filled until we have a new president.”
Ginsburg died on Friday due to complications of metastatic pancreas cancer, the court announced. She was 87.
Graham expressed his condolences over Ginsburg’s passing Friday evening.
“It was with great sadness that I learned of the passing of Justice Ginsburg. Justice Ginsburg was a trailblazer who possessed tremendous passion for her causes. She served with honor and distinction as a member of the Supreme Court,” the Republican South Carolina senator tweeted.
He went on to say, “While I had many differences with her on legal philosophy, I appreciate her service to our nation. My thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends. May she Rest In Peace.”
Ginsburg was appointed in 1993 by President Bill Clinton and in recent years served as the most senior member of the court’s liberal wing, consistently delivering progressive votes on the most divisive social issues of the day, including abortion rights, same-sex marriage, voting rights, immigration, health care and affirmative action.
This story has been updated with additional developments Friday.
CNN’s Veronica Stracqualursi and Joan Biskupic contributed to this report.