John McCain vows to block any Hillary Clinton Supreme Court nominee

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John McCain made the case for a GOP Senate majority – and offered Republicans an opportunity to walk away from Donald Trump – when he told a Philadelphia radio station he would work to block any Supreme Court nominee put forward by a President Hillary Clinton.

"I promise you that we will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put up," the Arizona Republican told 1210 WPHT Philadelphia Monday morning, in an appearance arguing in favor of re-electing Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa. "I promise you. This is where we need the majority and Pat Toomey is probably as articulate and effective on the floor of the Senate as anyone I have encountered."

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Both McCain and Toomey are facing competitive challenges to re-election to their Senate seats, and the outcomes of their races could determine which party holds the majority in the upper chamber next year.

Republicans currently hold 54 seats in the Senate while Democrats hold 46, including two independents who caucus with them. Should Clinton be elected on Nov. 8, Democrats would need to flip just four of the seats currently in GOP hands in order to take a majority.

While McCain appears to hold a comfortable lead over Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick in his re-election bid, Toomey is essentially tied in polls with Democrat Katie McGinty.

Toomey has so far refused to endorse Trump.

"I am not endorsing him and I remain unpersuaded," Toomey said last week.

Several of his GOP colleagues, including McCain, Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Rep. Joe Heck, running for the seat being vacated by Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., dropped their support of their party's nominee after the publication of a 2005 "Access Hollywood" video in which Trump bragged about groping women without consent.

"The way I look at it is we have two terrible choices, and I think many Pennsylvanians view it like this," Toomey told reporters after a breakfast on Tuesday. "This is not, ultimately, a referendum on anyone. It's a choice. It's a bad choice."

As Trump has sunk in the polls – most national and swing state surveys show him with a very narrow path to winning the White House – many Republicans further down the ballot have begun to position themselves as a check on a Clinton presidency.

Republicans coming out against Donald Trump
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Republicans coming out against Donald Trump

Arizona Senator John McCain: "I will not vote for Donald Trump."

(Photo by Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney: Trump's "vile degradations ... corrupt America's face to the world."

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte: "I will not be voting for Donald Trump."

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush: "No apology can excuse away Donald Trump's reprehensible comments degrading women."

(Photo by Paul Marotta/Getty Images)

Texas Senator Ted Cruz: Trump's comments are "disturbing and inappropriate, there is simply no excuse for them."

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham: "I have never been comfortable with Donald Trump as our Republican nominee."

(Photo by Riccardo Savi/Getty Images for Concordia Summit)

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice: "Donald Trump should not be President."

(Photo by Vladimir Shtanko/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

South Dakota Senator John Thune: "Donald Trump should withdraw and Mike Pence should be our nominee effective immediately."

(Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski: "I cannot and will not support Donald Trump for president."

(Photo by Matthew Busch/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse: Donald trump "is obviously not going to win [and should] step aside."

(Photo credit SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

Idaho Senator Mike Crapo: Donald Trump should step aside due to "disrespectful, profane and demeaning" behavior.

(Photo by Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Utah Senator Mike Lee: Donald Trump is a "distraction.

(Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Maine Senator Susan Collins: Donald Trump is "unsuitable for the presidency ... I [can] not support his candidacy."

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Texas Senator John Cornyn: "I am disgusted by Mr Trump's words about women."

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman: "The time has come for Governor Pence to lead the ticket."

(Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)

Utah Representative Mia Love: Stated she "cannot vote for" Donald Trump. 

(Photo credit SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

Ohio Senator Rob Portman: "I can no longer support [Trump]."

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

Colorado Representative Mike Coffman: Donald Trump should withdraw "for the good of the country."

(Photo By Brent Lewis/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Missouri Representative Ann Wagner: "I withdraw my endorsement and call for Governor Pence to take the lead" in the race.

(Photo via REUTERS/Gary Cameron)

Nevada Representative Joe Heck: "I believe our only option is to formally ask Mr. Trump to step down."

(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Arizona Senator Jeff Flake: Donald Trump is "wrong about his level of support. He needs to withdraw from the race."

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

Virginia Representative Barbara Comstock: Trump's remarks were "disgusting, vile, and disqualifying."

(Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Illinois Senator Mark Kirk: Donald Trump is a "malignant clown — unprepared and unfit to be president of the United States."

(AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)

Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan: "I will support Governor Mike Pence for President."

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Colorado Senator Cory Gardner: Donald Trump's flaws are "beyond mere moral shortcomings ... I cannot and will not support someone who brags about degrading and assaulting women."

(Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

New Jersey Representative Scott Garrett: Has stated he is "appalled" by Trump's actions.

(Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Nebraska Senator Deb Fischer: "It would be wise for [Trump] to step aside."

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard: "Enough is enough. Donald Trump should withdraw in favor of Governor Mike Pence."

(AP Photo/James Nord)

Former New York Governor George Pataki: "Enough! [Trump] needs to step down."

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Former GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina: "Donald Trump does not represent me or my party."

(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Michigan Representative Fred Upton: Donald Trump needs to "step down."

(Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam: Trump should "step aside and let Gov. Mike Pence assume the role as the party's nominee."

(Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images)

Utah Governor Gary Herbert: "I will not vote for Trump."

(Photo by James MacDonald/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley: "I cannot and will not vote for Donald Trump."

(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

California Representative Steve Knight: Trump's comments were "inexcusable."

(Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)


But McCain went further than most, making an explicit appeal to Republican voters who dislike Trump but have said they would back him because the next president is likely to see several Supreme Court vacancies during his or her term. The partisan makeup of the court, already short a member since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February and split evenly between conservative and liberal justices, could be shifted ideologically for generations during the next administration.

But McCain's plan has a serious flaw: If Clinton wins and Republicans do end up in the minority, McCain and his colleagues may find themselves without the ability to do anything to stop her nominees.

Since capturing the majority in the 2014 midterms, Republicans frustrated with Democrats blocking their agenda have proposed abolishing the filibuster, which allows a minority of senators to block legislation or appointments from advancing through the chamber's byzantine procedures that often require a 60-member supermajority to move to a final vote.

In 2013, Democrats changed the rules so most executive appointments no longer needed to clear the 60-vote threshold to pass. Should the Democrats regain the majority this fall, they could further amend the rules to include Supreme Court.

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