Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona said Wednesday that he didn’t think Judge Merrick Garland was likely to get a hearing in the Senate ahead of the November election, even though the Supreme Court already announced its major decisions this month.
But Flake, a Republican who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, is open to holding a vote for Garland if it starts to get close to November and Donald Trump still looks as if he won’t win the presidency.
“Obviously if we lose the election and lose the White House, then we ought to move quickly to confirm [Garland],” Flake told Business Insider. “And I think if it becomes apparent that we aren’t going to win the White House – if we know in October that it’s not good – then we’ve got to move forward at that point.”
“But I don’t think my view is shared by too many of my colleagues,” he continued. “Or enough of my colleagues to do it.”
The Arizona senator met with Garland in April. That was a break from GOP Senate leadership, which has called for no meetings with Garland, whom President Barack Obama nominated to fill the seat left vacant when Justice Antonin Scalia died in February. Obama nominated Garland to the seat in March.
Senate leadership has insisted that no hearing or vote will be held on Garland ahead of the November election. But some Republicans are fearful that, should Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton win in the fall, Obama could pull the nomination and allow Clinton to fill the void with someone considerably more left-leaning.
In an attempt to sway conservatives who were on the fence about him as the GOP standard-bearer, Trump in May released a list of conservative judges he would consider appointing to fill Supreme Court vacancies. The list was roundly applauded by the GOP.
Trump’s poll numbers have taken a plunge in recent weeks. Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, has opened up her widest lead over him in the RealClearPolitics average of several polls since early May.
Flake, who has been increasingly critical of Trump in recent months, has not endorsed the Manhattan billionaire. He’s said it was “quite possible” that the real-estate magnate would lose in Flake’s home state of Arizona, normally a Republican stronghold.