Utah’s two Republican senators both praised President Donald Trump’s nominee to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, saying conservative Judge Amy Coney Barrett had the right credentials for the job.
But only one of them seemed ready to vote her in on Saturday, and it comes as no surprise who it was.
Sen. Mike Lee — a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee that will hold confirmation hearings on her — had been campaigning this week for Barrett, and had said she will be in the mold of recent conservative justices such as the late Justice Antonin Scalia — for whom Barrett was a clerk — and current Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito (for whom Lee was a clerk).
Indeed, Lee was at the Rose Garden ceremony Saturday afternoon, where Trump formally announced he’d chosen Barrett, who was an early favorite for the nomination.
Lee himself was reported by Axios to be No. 3 on Trump’s short list for the position. Barrett was No. 1.
Watching the ceremony, Lee tweeted a selfie and a photo of Trump and said, “Excited to see history made! #FillTheSeat".
In a statement soon after, Lee said Barrett would be “a textualist originalist."
“She’ll be devoted to the principle of constitutionally limited government. That’s what President Trump promised his voters. And we are going to keep our promise to the voters who elected us.”
Sen. Mitt Romney’s statement, however, was more reserved. Democrats had hoped that Romney, with his track record of challenging Trump, would choose to break ranks like he did during the Senate impeachment hearings and not confirm Trump’s nominee on principle. A move, they believed, that would align with the 2016 Republican-led Senate’s decision to not give Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, a vote.
Those hopes were dashed earlier this week when Romney announced he would consider Trump’s nominee.
Even as Romney praised Barrett’s qualifications, he reiterated his earlier statement on his role as a senator to vote on a Supreme Court nominee — that he was constitutionally bound to consider the nominee.
“My constitutional role to provide advice and consent on a Supreme Court nomination is one of my most serious responsibilities as a Senator," the statement read, "and I believe our next justice must faithfully apply the law and our Constitution, impartially and regardless of policy preferences.”
He said that he was looking forward to meeting with Barrett, “reviewing her record thoroughly, and carefully evaluating her qualifications.”
The formal nomination comes on the same day protesters took to the streets in Salt Lake City, demanding Romney and Lee to hold off on voting for Trump’s Supreme Court pick until after the winner of the November presidential election is sworn-in.
Lee was among the Republican senators in the winter and spring of 2016 who cited a pending presidential election as a reason not to consider Garland.
Lee has evaded the election year issue this time, and focused on the “advice and consent” role the U.S. Constitution bestows upon senators.
Reporter Lee Davidson contributed to this article.