Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of SC and Roy Blunt of Missouri said Sunday that they believe any of the top four contenders could get confirmed by the GOP-majority Senate.
With a slim one vote majority in the Senate, any GOP defections could prove problematic in winning confirmation for Trump's eventual choice, that is if Democrats hold together in opposition.
"This is a nightmare for red-state Democrats to oppose a highly qualified nominee, and all four of these people are highly qualified", noted Graham.
"I'm not sure I'm leaning anywhere on those four nominees. I don't think my role is a rubber stamp for the President, but it's also not an automatic, knee-jerk no either", Jones said. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) told the president over the weekend that Hardiman and Kethledge would face the fewest obstacles to confirmation. Kavanaugh has an extensive paper trail that could potentially enable Democrats to stretch the confirmation beyond the 2018 midterm election. Both support a woman's right to have an abortion and will be looking for assurances that the nominee would not overturn the Roe v Wade decision establishing abortion rights. "Donald Trump could nominate George Washington or John Marshall, and they couldn't get through".
But Trump Supreme Court advisor Leonard Leo says the Roe v. Wade conversation is nothing more than a scare tactic.
From a reported list of 25 Supreme Court candidates, Trump said he has narrowed his choices.
"My goal, first and foremost, has always been to find people to serve on the court who believe in the Constitution as it's written, and that's really what drives the conservative legal movement", Leo said. Previously, Collins voted for Gorsuch because of his belief in the significance of precedent.
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Kennedy's exit has afforded Trump the opportunity to replace the frequent swing vote on the court with a reliable conservative judge and influence the judiciary for decades. As an appeals court judge, Kethledge authored several notable opinions, including one that upheld the death penalty against a suspect who murdered a woman on federal land and a case in OH that questioned whether private citizens can sue the state for failing to enforce pollution controls. Previous lobbying efforts by McConnell - including a push for fellow Kentuckian 6th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Amul Thapar, who would have been the court's first Asian-American nominee - have failed.
Track record: Barrett's recent ascension to the appeals court means she does not have the long, conservative record that lawmakers on the right find reassuring.
While Kethledge and Hardiman may be easier to confirm, Barrett and Kavanaugh have the biggest name recognition among conservatives.
Barrett has a thin resume as a judge but has amassed a formidable and respected body of scholarly work.
Kavanaugh is a former clerk to Anthony Kennedy, and was the principle author of the Ken Starr report on Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky.
And with that, Thomas Hardiman - the judge who Trump passed over last year to install Neil Gorsuch to the seat once held by the late Justice Antonin Scalia last year - was back in play.
"We're very close to making a decision..." Asked by reporters how many people were being considered, the president said: "Let's say it's the four people ... they're excellent, every one". I'll be deciding tonight or tomorrow sometime by 12 o'clock, and we're all gonna be meeting at 9 o'clock.
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