Following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and President Trump have announced their intention to fill the vacancy before the end of the President’s first term. Holding a 53-47 majority in the Senate, Republicans can only risk four defections on the floor vote. The Senate Judiciary Committee also needs to secure a majority to move forward with confirmation of a new Justice.

Several Senators will be key to the success or failure of the nomination, they are Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA). President Trump is reportedly considering two candidates, Judge Amy Coney Barrett and Judge Barbara Lagoa to fill the vacancy.

The dynamics of this confirmation are different than the previous Supreme Court nominee, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was eventually confirmed 50-48 after a harrowing ordeal that devolved into a media circus and bitter partisan battle. This nomination is set to be another contentious contest, let’s break down the players.

Reported Supreme Court Candidates

Judge Amy Coney Barrett has emerged as President Trump’s favored choice to replace Justice Ruth Badger Ginsburg. Since 2017 she has served on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit; confirmed on a Republican 55-43 vote. A devout Catholic, she is a professor at Notre Dame Law School and previously served as a clerk to late Justice Antonin Scalia. She is known for her conservative, originalist legal philosophy.

Judge Baraba Lagoa has served on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh District since December 2019; confirmed on a Republican 80-15 vote. The daughter of Cuban exiles who fled Fidel Castro’s rule, she is a proven conservative judge whose public statements demonstrate she values a strict analysis of the law’s original intent. She previously served on the Florida Supreme Court. Nominating Judge Lagoa could possibly give President Trump a boost in Florida in the upcoming election.

Senate Judiciary Committee

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. In 2016, during the debate of whether to hold hearings on President Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, Sen. Graham publicly said that if the same situation was presented to him in the future he would remain consistent in his opposition to confirming a lifetime appointed Justice in an election year. He has reversed his position and committed to holding hearings and supporting President Trump’s nominee. Sen. Graham is up for re-election in a tight race and his support for a conservative justice to give the Supreme Court a 6-3 conservative majority may give him a needed boost.

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) just last month was accused of having ‘gone rogue’ by President Trump when he criticized the administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Sen. Sasse has supported the previous nominees for the Supreme Court, but if Democrats have any hope of stalling the nomination in committee their best hope is to convince Sen. Sasse to defect.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) will have a megaphone during confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The 2020 Democratic Vice-Presidential nominee will have prime media attention to make the case for her ticket in November. This may not derail the confirmation of a Justice, but it will give her a massive platform to make the case for her election.

Notable Republican Votes

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) is in the midst of a tough reelection campaign. In 2018, she was uncommitted to voting for Justice Brett Kavanaugh until the day before his confirmation; which she eventually voted for. She has come out in favor of waiting to fill the vacancy until after the presidential election and later committed to voting against any perspective nominee.

“If there is [a vote], I would oppose the nominee, not because I might not support that nominee under normal circumstances, but we’re simply too close to the election, and in the interest of being fair to the American people — and consistent since it was with the Garland nomination that the decision was made not to proceed, a decision that I disagreed with, but my position did not prevail — I now think we need to play by the same set of rules,” she said.

 Notably, Republicans can lose her vote and still confirm the new Justice.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) voted to remove President Trump during his impeachment trial in the Senate earlier this year, which had some wondering if he would oppose a nominee from a president he doesn’t believe should still be in office. However, he has committed to voting yes.

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) is in the midst of a tough reelection bid in Colorado. He has committed to voting yes for the nominee.

Undecided Republican

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) intended to vote no on Justice Kavanaugh’s nomination in 2018. As a courtesy to Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), she voted present so he may attend his daughter’s wedding instead of returning to Washington to cast his vote in favor. Her no vote wouldn’t have stopped the confirmation. Along with Sen. Collins (R-ME), she supports waiting until after the presidential election to nominate a new Justice. But, as Republicans intend to move forward before the election, it will be interesting to see if she votes with Sen. Collins and Democrats to oppose the confirmation. Republicans can withstand losing her support and still confirm the nominee.

This layout shows that even if a couple Republican Senators join Democrats to oppose President Trump’s nominee on the floor, she will still be confirmed. The only play that Democrats have is a longshot fight in the Senate Judiciary Committee and use Sen. Harris’ megaphone to persuade voters to elect her in November.