Dan Sullivan

Dan Sullivan Wednesday afternoon, June 18, 2014. Eric Engman/News-Miner

Alaska Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan has formally announced his support for Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Donald Trump’s nominee to fill a vacant U.S. Supreme Court seat. 

Sullivan announced his support for Barrett in a Senate floor speech Wednesday in which he commended Senate Republicans, including Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, for running last week’s committee hearing “in a way that befitted such an occasion — respect, good questioning.”

The junior Alaska senator lauded Barrett’s qualifications for the job.

“She clearly understands the separation of powers and federalism, holds a healthy skepticism regarding the expansive power of federal agencies, and is a strong protector and proponent of the Second Amendment — all issues that my constituents care deeply about,” Sullivan said. 

Barrett’s nomination and the subsequent hearing process has been the source of controversy and concern among many who cite the Republican blocking of former President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court in 2016. At the time, much of the Republican Senate said the nomination was made too close to the election, more than 200 days. Now, there is noted Republican support of Trump’s appointment just weeks before the election. 

Sullivan opposed Obama’s appointment in 2016, saying the decision was made too close to the election and that Alaskans should be able to decide with their vote for president. Now, he says that was standard partisan politics and it’s normal for politicians to stick with their own party’s administration in situations like these. 

If confirmed, Barrett will replace progressive equal rights activist Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died last month at the age of 87. Some voters are concerned that Barrett’s conservative record will swing the nine-member bench further to the right and place at risk certain previous rulings legalizing abortion and equal marriage rights for lesbian and gay couples –– two areas that some conservative justices on the court have signaled a desire to repeal.

Sullivan’s support of Barrett was to be expected given his voting record, which overlapped with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, 94% of the time over the last year, according to ProPublica and the Google News Initiative’s nonpartisan “Represent” project, which tracks voting records in both congressional bodies.

Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski has yet to issue a formal position on whether or not she plans to vote for Barrett.

Senate Republicans are hoping to hold a full Senate vote as early as Sunday.

Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics. 

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