Former Sen. Jon Kyl will return to the chamber to take the seat of the late Sen. John McCain, giving the GOP timely reinforcements ahead of critical votes on a Supreme Court nominee.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey named Mr. Kyl as a temporary replacement for McCain, who died late last month, less than two years into his sixth term.
“There is no one in Arizona with the stature of Sen. Jon Kyl. He is a man without comparable peer,” Mr. Ducey said.
Mr. Kyl, who had risen to be the second-ranking Republican in the Senate before retiring in 2012, served alongside McCain for 18 years. In recent months he has been shepherding Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, through his meetings on Capitol Hill.
“Now Sen. Kyl can cast a vote for Kavanaugh’s confirmation,” Mr. Ducey said.
Mr. Kyl has only committed to serving through the end of this year, though Mr. Ducey said he hopes that time will expand to 2020. A special election can be held that year to fill out the rest of McCain’s term before the seat comes again in 2022 under the regular election cycle.
Mr. Kyl said he will not be a candidate for the seat in 2020.
“I’m willing to serve certainly through the end of this session, at least to make sure the business that is currently ongoing is taken care of, but I don’t want to make a commitment beyond that,” said the once-and-future senator.
Arizona’s other Senate seat is up for election this year, with Sen. Jeff Flake resigning after one term.
Picking Mr. Kyl solves a potential political problem for Mr. Ducey, who also is up for re-election in November. Conservative activists had pushed the governor to name Kelli Ward, who lost her primary last week in the race for the Flake seat. Some Arizonans also said they would have liked to see McCain’s wife, Cindy McCain, named to fill his seat.
Picking Mr. Kyl, though, is a masterful stroke. He brings exceptional gravitas as well as ties to this White House — though he said he’s only met President Trump once.
Mrs. McCain expressed her support for the Kyl pick Tuesday, calling him “a dear friend” and saying his willingness to fill the seat was “a great tribute” to her husband.
Mr. Flake also praised Mr. Kyl. “There is no one more qualified and Arizona is well served,” he said.
In the near term, Mr. Kyl will give the Republicans a buffer in floor votes that the party had lacked since December, when McCain went to his home in Arizona to battle cancer.
Without him, Republicans had an effective 50-49 advantage over the Democrats, meaning a single Republican defection on an issue could deny them a majority. Now with Mr. Kyl they return to a 51-49 margin, and if a Republican defects on an issue, Vice President Mike Pence can break the tie in the party’s favor.
⦁ Gabriella Munoz contributed to this article.
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