Alaska News

Hours before news of Ginsburg’s death, Murkowski said she wouldn’t vote on a Supreme Court nominee prior to election

Update, Sunday 8:30 a.m.: Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, issued this statement on Sunday about the Supreme Court vacancy: “For weeks, I have stated that I would not support taking up a potential Supreme Court vacancy this close to the election. Sadly, what was then a hypothetical is now our reality, but my position has not changed. I did not support taking up a nomination eight months before the 2016 election to fill the vacancy created by the passing of Justice Scalia. We are now even closer to the 2020 election – less than two months out – and I believe the same standard must apply.”

Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan, also a Republican, has not indicated his position.

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Original story:

Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski said in an interview that she wouldn’t vote to confirm a Supreme Court nominee ahead of the election, just hours before news broke that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died.

Speaking to Alaska Public Media during an interview on an unrelated topic, Murkowski referenced the position she took when former President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court in March 2016. Then, she supported Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s refusal to take action on Garland’s nomination.

Murkowski said that then, she felt “that was too close to an election and that the people needed to decide. That the closer you get to an election, that argument becomes even more important.”

“So I would not vote to confirm a Supreme Court nominee," Murkowski said Friday, noting she had previously stated this position to reporters in recent weeks. "We are 50-some days away from an election, and the good news for us is that all of our Supreme Court justices are in good health and doing their job. And we pray that they are able to continue that.”


Alaska Public Media provided the Daily News with a recording of the exchange.

Murkowski’s stance will factor in to an already heated political battle over Ginsburg’s replacement ahead of the November presidential election — McConnell has already said he intends to hold a Senate vote on whoever President Donald Trump nominates.

But after Murkowski and the rest of Alaska’s all-Republican congressional delegation learned of Ginsburg’s death Friday, they did not immediately comment on whether a vote on her replacement should be delayed until after the next president is decided.

In a written statement, Murkowski called Ginsburg “a true leader and pioneer” who “has made an enduring mark on history.”

“I am personally deeply saddened by her passing and know that women around the world who have also admired her tenacity and spirit feel the same. Tonight we mourn her passing and turn to honoring her life and legacy.”

Alaska’s other U.S. senator, Dan Sullivan, also expressed condolences.

“Julie and I send our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” Sullivan said in a statement. “She was a trailblazer in the American legal system and leaves a legacy of decades of exemplary service to our nation.”

Sullivan apparently learned of Ginsburg’s death as he walked into an on-camera TV interview Friday afternoon.

In a video posted Friday by Alaska’s News Source, Sullivan said he saw the news on a TV as he was walking in.

“I think, right now, the moment is to be respectful and remember her legacy,” Sullivan said, adding “there will be plenty of opportunity to talk about next steps after this.”

According to the Washington Post, McConnell late Friday circulated a letter among Republican senators urging caution on taking a position on Ginsburg’s replacement, saying, “This is not the time to prematurely lock yourselves into a position you may later regret.”

In a statement released by his campaign manager, U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, said he and his staff are praying for Ginsburg and her family.

Al Gross, the Democratic-nominated independent challenging Sullivan for his Senate seat in the November election, did not initially comment on whether it’s appropriate to nominate and vote on a replacement for Ginsburg’s seat before the election.

“Ruth Bader Ginsburg spent her entire life fighting for the underrepresented, the oppressed and the forgotten,” Gross said in a statement. “She was a champion of the court, a true civil servant and a tireless advocate for justice."

On Saturday, Gross issued a statement challenging Sullivan on the issue.

“The Supreme Court is a sacred branch of our government," Gross' statement read. "In recent years, Washington politicians have tried to politicize the court and those they nominate to be a Justice. Dan -- we both know it is only fair to the American people to wait until they are able to cast their ballots in November. Will you vote to confirm a new Supreme Court Justice before the next president is inaugurated?”

Young challenger Alyse Galvin, the Democratic-nominated independent candidate for U.S. House, also released a statement:


“Today is a sad day for all Americans and for me personally,” Galvin said. “Ruth Bader Ginsburg was one of my heroes. She stood ten feet tall in everything that she did. She will be greatly missed and today is a time for mourning our loss as a nation.”

Galvin, through her spokeswoman, declined to comment on whether Ginsburg’s replacement should be decided before the election.

Anchorage Daily News staff Aubrey Wieber and Alex DeMarban contributed reporting.

Related: Murkowski calls Gross attacks ‘flat-out wrong’ in the latest of a string of campaign ads debating Sullivan’s record