Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday he will take up President Donald Trump’s nominee for the vacant Supreme Court seat next year, four years after blocking a nominee, a move he said he hopes will follow a pattern that will reinforce support for the nominee.

The Kentucky Republican initially opposed Judge Brett Kavanaugh for a year in 2017, arguing that his views on core issues such as abortion and gay rights were too extreme. With Kavanaugh announced as his replacement, McConnell said he and other GOP senators were united in opposition to overturning Roe v. Wade, the ruling that legalized abortion.

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The differences between the two camps were complicated when McConnell in July removed the nominee by blocking a vote on his confirmation, despite both parties embracing the judge as a thoughtful moderate. McConnell again insisted he was committed to protecting Roe from overturn. And Thursday, when asked if that goal was the best path to reaching the 60 votes necessary to advance the nomination, McConnell said “I think so.”

Then McConnell rejected the GOP argument that Kavanaugh’s nomination helped revitalize the party’s image on issues related to women’s rights. The future occupant of the Supreme Court, McConnell argued, “is more than merely a judge, it is a force.”

The McConnell move came after Justice Anthony Kennedy announced that he was retiring. A nuclear option — splitting the Senate by eliminating a filibuster on presidential nominations — could have led to the confirmation of the No. 2 Justice of the Supreme Court.

But McConnell said Kavanaugh’s confirmation “clearly gives the president his wish to put a conservative on the Court — no different than placing a conservative on the highest court in the land.”

“The Senate of this nation is uniquely situated to confirm such a nominee,” McConnell said.

Later, at a GOP fundraiser in Bowling Green, McConnell said “it may not be politically possible for the president to nominate a moderate, but I think it’s going to be easier for the president to nominate a conservative.”

That’s on its way, and McConnell has already selected an ambitious as Kavanaugh’s nomination.

“I think Senator Trump has enough votes on the Senate floor to get this done if he chooses to use a nuclear option and he’s going to have an open-ended supply of confirmation votes for Brett Kavanaugh,” said Lindsay Walters, executive director of the Center for American Progress, a liberal advocacy group.

Democrats and some liberal-leaning groups are planning a petition drive to protest McConnell’s move.

At the same time, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Thursday also said McConnell would have to demonstrate he is “on the right side of American history” to put Kavanaugh on the high court.

The White House has yet to announce its final nominee, and its rules do not prevent the president from filling the Supreme Court vacancy before the end of June. Kavanaugh has a hearing on Oct. 3 before the Judiciary Committee, with a final vote there occurring later this month.

Democrats say the case Kavanaugh has potentially changed is in striking health care legislation for women. Their most persistent arguments are similar to those on abortion: the Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion, plus a pro-life Supreme Court vacancy that’s been in doubt for a decade, leave the nation vulnerable to elective or illegal measures that could undermine protections for women and health care for millions.

Schumer said if McConnell fulfills its campaign pledge to have a Supreme Court nominee “rather than an open-ended supply of confirmation votes, they will undermine Roe v. Wade once and for all.”

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