But another moderate senator, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, a retiring Republican considered by many to be a strong defender of Senate traditions, on Sunday joined the growing ranks of Republicans in support of confirming Mr. Trump’s pick.
“No one should be surprised that a Republican Senate majority would vote on a Republican president’s Supreme Court nomination, even during a presidential election year,” Mr. Alexander said in a statement. “The Constitution gives senators the power to do it. The voters who elected them expect it.”
Ms. Murkowski’s stance against a vote ahead of the November election was striking, particularly given signals from the White House that the administration hopes to nominate someone for the position in the coming days. Ms. Murkowski took care to hold to her position from 2016, but several other Republicans who resisted confirming Merrick B. Garland, President Obama’s choice for the Scalia vacancy, are now arguing that the Senate should vote to confirm President Trump’s nominee. Several sought Sunday to deflect charges of hypocrisy.
“What we’re proposing is completely consistent, completely consistent with the precedent,” Senator John Barrasso, Republican of Wyoming and a member of the Senate leadership, claimed speaking on “Meet the Press.” Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas and one of the names on Mr. Trump’s short list for the open seat, said on Fox News Sunday that “the Senate majority is performing our constitutional duty and fulfilling the mandate that voters gave us in 2016 and 2018.”
It remains unclear, however, whether Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, will hold a vote on a Supreme Court nominee before November, though on Friday he vowed that the Senate would vote on Mr. Trump’s nominee.
With Ms. Murkowski and Ms. Collins both publicly voicing their objections to such a timeline, Mr. McConnell can only afford to lose the support of two more Republican senators. And Mr. McConnell, who is up for re-election, is cognizant of the tough races a number of his members are facing and how such a political fight could further galvanize voters. He had gone so far as to encourage his members to “keep their powder dry” when asked about a vacancy.
There were continuing signs that the looming confirmation fight was motivating Democratic donors: ActBlue, the donation-processing site, announced Sunday that small-dollar donors had contributed $100 million since Friday night.