US Senator Ted Cruz on Wednesday (26 October) suggested that there was a "precedent" of keeping the ninth Supreme Court seat vacant.
The Texas senator's comments appeared to indicate that Senate Republicans will continue to block nominee Merrick Garland or any other nominee if Democrat Hillary Clinton wins the election.
"You know, I think there will be plenty of time for debate on that issue," Cruz told reporters in Colorado when asked if a GOP-controlled Senate should hold votes on President Clinton's nominees.
"There is certainly long historical precedent for a Supreme Court with fewer justices. I would note, just recently, that Justice Breyer observed that the vacancy is not impacting the ability of the court to do its job. That's a debate that we are going to have."
According to The Washington Post, Cruz's comments are at odds with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, including the chairman, Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa.
"If that new president happens to be Hillary, we can't just simply stonewall," Grassley said.
Cruz is the second Republican, however, to suggest Senate Republicans will block any Democratic nominee to fill the vacancy left by Justice Antonin Scalia's death.
Earlier in October, Arizona Senator John McCain made a similar suggestion during a radio show in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
A spokeswoman for McCain later walked back from the remarks, saying the Arizona Republican would still judge nominees based on their records and not on their politics.
"Senator McCain will, of course, thoroughly examine the record of any Supreme Court nominee put before the Senate and vote for or against that individual based on their qualifications as he has done throughout his career," spokeswoman Rachael Dean said.
The Associated Press noted that President Obama nominated Garland in March of this year, but Senate Republicans argued the next president should be the one to fill the vacancy and decided against holding any hearings. If a liberal justice replaces Scalia, the Supreme Court would have a liberal majority for the first time since the 1970s.