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Sen. Pat Toomey Says He Will Support Voting For Trump's SCOTUS Nominee 4 Years After Endorsing Waiting Until After Presidential Election

HARRISBURG (KDKA/AP) - Pennsylvania's Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, who endorsed waiting eight months until after the 2016 election to fill a Supreme Court vacancy, says he will vote to confirm the president's nominee if his "objective, non-partisan criteria" is met.

President Donald Trump said he is obligated to pick a nominee as soon as possible to replace the liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Friday, barely 40 days before voters pick between Trump and Democrat Joe Biden.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, is pushing ahead with plans to begin the confirmation process, while Biden is appealing to GOP senators to delay the vote until after the election.

In a statement, Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania cited McConnell's stance in 2016, saying Ginsburg's seat should not be filled until the presidential election concludes and the winner is sworn in to office.

In 2016, Toomey supported the decision to put off consideration of President Barack Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland, nominated in March to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

At the time, Toomey said, "with the U.S. Supreme Court's balance at stake, and with the presidential election fewer than eight months away, it is wise to give the American people a more direct voice in the selection and confirmation of the next justice."

As a result, Trump made the pick.

Now Toomey says he will confirm President Trump's nominee if his criteria is met, saying this time is different because the White House and the Senate are controlled by the same parties, unlike in 2016.

He released this statement Tuesday morning:

"Four years ago, I noted that my decision to oppose moving forward with the Supreme Court confirmation process for Judge Merrick Garland was related to the circumstances present at the time.

"In 2016, the White House and the Senate, which share equally the constitutional authority for filling a Supreme Court vacancy, were controlled by different parties. When power is divided during a presidential election year, the Senate's general practice has been to leave open a Supreme Court vacancy so that the voters may speak and possibly resolve the disagreement created by the division.[2] Such practice has been emphatically endorsed by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.),[3] and even the current Democratic nominee for president, former Senator and Vice President Joe Biden.[4] Republicans were following this Senate practice, and the Biden-Schumer approach, when we exercised our constitutional prerogative not to fill the 2016 vacancy.

"The circumstances surrounding the current vacancy are, in fact, different. While there is a presidential election this year, the White House and the Senate are currently both controlled by the same party. The Senate's historical practice has been to fill Supreme Court vacancies in these circumstances.[5] This is also a view Democrats once held. We know this because every single Democratic senator pushed for Judge Garland's confirmation and told anyone who would listen that if Democrats controlled the Senate—that is, if they were in the position that Republicans are in today—they would have confirmed him. Are we now supposed to operate by two different sets of rules that systematically advantage the Democrats?

"The difference between these Senate practices makes perfect sense. When divided government creates tension between the two organs responsible for filling a position on the Supreme Court, it is completely justifiable to leave open a vacancy until the voters have had a chance to speak. In 2016, the voters spoke by electing a Republican president and a Republican-controlled Senate. In 2018, the voters expanded the Republican majority in the Senate. Since the voters resolved the tension between the White House and the Senate, there is no reason to delay filling this vacancy.

"I will evaluate President Trump's nominee to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg based on whether the nominee has the character, intellect, and experience needed to serve on our nation's highest court. These are the same objective, non-partisan criteria that I have used to evaluate judicial nominees under both President Obama and President Trump. Based on these criteria, I supported President Obama's nomination of then-Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court and voted to confirm almost 70 percent of the judges nominated by President Obama and considered by the Senate during my time in office. If the person President Trump nominates also meets these criteria, I will vote to confirm this nominee."

(TM and © Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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