WASHINGTON—A handful of moderate and institutionalist Senate Republicans were thrust into the spotlight Friday after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death prompted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) to say that he would seek to confirm President Trump’s nominee to replace her on the Supreme Court.
The Senate’s Republicans control 53 votes compared with 47 for the Democrats, giving them enough power to muscle through a Trump nominee. Because Vice President Mike Pence can break any ties, Democrats would need to peel off four Republicans to block Mr. Trump’s pick, a difficult goal to meet given the small number of moderate Republicans in the chamber.
Despite having blocked President Obama’s high-court pick during an election year, Mr. McConnell suggested in his statement Friday that the current situation was different from 2016 because the Senate and White House were controlled by the same party.
“Americans re-elected our majority in 2016 and expanded it in 2018 because we pledged to work with President Trump and support his agenda, particularly his outstanding appointments to the federal judiciary,” Mr. McConnell said. “Once again, we will keep our promise. President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said Friday night that Justice Ginsburg shouldn’t be replaced until the next president is in office.
“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice,” Mr. Schumer said in a tweet Friday night, echoing precisely what Mr. McConnell said after the 2016 vacancy. “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”
If Senate GOP leaders begin consideration of Mr. Trump’s nominee, moderate Republican senators including Mitt Romney of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska will likely be the final deciders on whether the president’s pick clears the chamber.
Ms. Murkowski has said previously that she wouldn’t support filling a Supreme Court vacancy this year.