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It's clear that the Senate will hold a vote for Trump's nominee, so what would senate republicans like Susan M. Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska accomplish by saying that they would not vote to confirm a nominee? Are they expecting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to backtrack on what he said yesterday?

Why don't they just say that they'll vote against the nomination? Is not wanting to vote a third alternative to the "Yes" on "No" vote?

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Yes, they’re hoping that McConnell will back down if he realizes he doesn’t have the votes. These senators are in a tricky position: going against Trump is very dangerous for a Republican, but they also want to avoid antagonizing moderate and swing voters (and they may also feel personally uncomfortable with ramming through a new justice). These more vague statements are meant to signal that they won’t vote to confirm in the hopes of derailing the nomination without actually having to go on the record against Trump.

  • I assumed that was the reason, but McConnell doesn’t seem like someone that backtracks, especially with a soon-to-be lame duck (according to several polls). – fdkgfosfskjdlsjdlkfsf Sep 19 '20 at 21:50
  • @fdkgfosfskjdlsjdlkfsf: It's possible that McConnell will want to exact a political price on senators who defy him on this, but the problem is that he does not want to be the minority leader in 2021, and that concern is obviously a lot more important than revenge or even party discipline. So it's in his interest to avoid forcing them into casting a politically controversial vote right before election day. I think he'll move forward with the vote only if he thinks he can win, or if Trump threatens to do something even more damaging, like openly campaigning against Collins et al. – Kevin Sep 20 '20 at 0:38
  • I don’t think so either. My guess is that he’ll most likely bring it to a vote regardless and dare the more moderate republicans to choose between offending the right and the center. But I’m sure they would rather not have to make that decision at all. – divibisan Sep 20 '20 at 0:44
  • @Kevin McConnell has shown a pretty strong tendency to prioritize party and politics over everything, even himself. He is just conveniently in a place of power where these things align. I'm quite confident McConnell will consider one (more) Justice to be significantly more valuable than the Senate and White House combined (because it is), and would be happy to fall on his sword to get that Justice. What'll be interesting is if he somehow fails to ensure he can do that, but that also seems unlikely. – zibadawa timmy Sep 20 '20 at 2:49
  • @zibadawatimmy: As I said, I think he'll move forward with the vote if, and only if, he thinks he can win it. If he doesn't think he can win, then it makes no logical sense to take it anyway, because it would both damage Republican party unity (at a national level) and force various senators to cast controversial votes right before election day, without accomplishing much at all. – Kevin Sep 20 '20 at 20:59

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