McCain’s replacement is former Arizona senator Jon Kyl

The Republican majority in the Senate is back in full force after the death of John McCain, and the backup is a familiar face to both Arizonans and the Washington establishment.

Former Sen. Jon Kyl, who served three terms in the Senate representing Arizona until 2013, will return to the Capitol as McCain’s temporary replacement, Gov. Doug Ducey announced Tuesday. Kyl’s nomination returns the Senate to a 51-49 GOP advantage after Republicans ran with a functional one-seat margin during McCain’s long illness, which kept him in Arizona from last December until his death from brain cancer on August 25.

The most immediate implication of Kyl’s return to the Senate is that Republicans now have more leeway to confirm President Donald Trump’s nominee for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. In fact, there’s no more a certain Republican vote for Kavanaugh nationwide than there is for Kyl — the White House had previously tapped the respected former senator to serve as the nominee’s so-called sherpa during the nomination process. confirmation. To stand a chance of defeating Kavanaugh, Democrats would now have to persuade at least two Republicans to vote him down, with the likeliest targets being Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

As a former member of the Judiciary Committee, Kyl guided Kavanaugh through his many meetings with senators and helped him prepare for hearings that began Tuesday morning. From now on, he will have the possibility not only to advise the judge, but also to vote for him.

Beginning in 1995, Kyl served 18 years in the Senate, rising to the helm of the party to become the second GOP member in his final five years in office. He had spent the previous eight years in the House, and since retiring in 2013, he has been a lobbyist with the well-known law firm Covington & Burling in Washington, DC.

The choice is somewhat surprising, given that Republicans in Arizona expected Ducey to choose a younger replacement who would have run for office in 2020. But instead, he turned to a replacement 76-year-old who has not pledged to serve beyond the end. of this year. The governor told reporters he had been inundated with advice on who to choose, “largely unsolicited.”

“I kept coming back to one name and one person: Jon Kyl,” Ducey said at a news conference announcing his decision. “There is no one in Arizona with the stature of Jon Kyl. He is a man without equal.”

Ducey said he has tried – and will continue to try – to persuade Kyl to serve until 2020, when under Arizona law there will be a special election for the right to serve. the last two years of McCain’s six-year term. But Kyl said the need to care for his family may force him to return home after the current session of Congress ends in early January. This would require Ducey to make another appointment to serve the next two years.

“I haven’t been able to get that assurance from Senator Kyl yet,” the governor said. “I hope he serves longer.”

For now, Senate Republicans can expect a colleague who will be true to their agenda and, likely, to that of President Trump. Kyl mentioned the imperative to confirm the President’s judicial and executive appointments in the coming months, which, government funding legislation aside, is expected to be the bulk of Senate activity for the rest of the year. year. Ducey’s choice drew praise from allies of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, conservatives at the Club for Growth and McCain’s widow, Cindy, who called Kyl “a dear friend” and her nomination a “great tribute” to her late husband.

“I couldn’t imagine a more responsible and thoughtful conservative to represent the state of Arizona in its time of mourning than Senator Jon Kyl,” said Steven Law, chairman of the McConnell-aligned Senate Leadership Fund. “He already knows the Senate from front to back and he has a deep connection to Arizona and its concerns.”

Like many establishment Republicans, however, Kyl criticized the president’s pugnacious style. A reporter from Arizona asked him about a quote earlier this year in which he described Trump’s behavior as “rude.” Kyl alluded to the president’s desire to engage in public fights, and often instigate them. “Sometimes it can be detrimental to what he’s trying to accomplish,” he said Tuesday. “I said it, and I stand by it.”

Kyl has confirmed that he has no interest in running again in 2020 for the Senate “or any other office.” His brief engagement means maneuvering for a longer Senate appointment will likely continue in Arizona. And it raises the possibility that Ducey could still nominate Rep. Martha McSally to the Senate if she loses in her bid to replace incumbent lawmaker Jeff Flake in November. She is locked in a tight race with Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema after the two won their respective primary nominations last week.

Ducey is also in the running for — and is favored to win — re-election this fall. He said he made his selection of Kyl “without regard to politics,” and while he didn’t speak in detail about the likelihood of a second nomination, the only name he ruled out was his. “I’ve been clear on this from the start: it’s not going to happen,” the governor said.