WASHINGTON — Breaking with President Donald Trump and her party's leadership, Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins — perhaps the most endangered GOP incumbent — said the Senate should wait to vote on a replacement for the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg until after the November election.
Trump and Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., are both committed to pushing through a nominee to replace Ginsburg as quickly as possible, in case the GOP loses the Senate or the White House in November.
But Collins, in a statement Saturday afternoon, said the winner of the presidential election should select Ginsburg's replacement after the election. But she did not explicitly say she would vote against a nominee if Trump were to put one forward sooner.
"Given the proximity of the presidential election, however, I do not believe that the Senate should vote on the nominee prior to the election," Collins said. "In fairness to the American people, who will either be re-electing the president or selecting a new one, the decision on a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court should be made by the president who is elected on November 3rd."
Trump quickly fired back at Collins, telling reporters as he left the White House that he "totally disagree(s)" with her sentiment.
"We won. We have an obligation to voters," he said. "If that's what she said, I totally disagree."
Trump added that he would name a replacement as soon as next week. "Very soon," he said.
Collins is facing the toughest re-election fight of her career in Maine, where she's lost the broad bipartisan popularity she once enjoyed after voting to confirm Justice Brett Kavanaugh in another highly charged court fight.
Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski said before Ginsburg's passing that she would not vote to confirm a new justice until after Inauguration Day in January.
Collins has long positioned herself an independent moderate in a state that leans Democratic. But as the country has grown more polarized, that's left her stuck between skeptical Trump-backing Republicans on one side and angry anti-Trump Democrats on the other.
"Mainers & Americans should have their voices heard, and the vacancy on the Supreme Court should be filled by the next President and Senate," Democratic challenger Sara Gideon said on Twitter.