Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker also said he "wouldn't be surprised" if Hillary Clinton is victorious that President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland could get a vote before the end of the year, although top GOP leadership aides insist a nominee won't be confirmed until next year.
In acknowledging Republicans would have to at some point allow a Clinton nominee to come up for a confirmation vote, Wicker also made clear GOP senators would not rush to embrace her first picks if the individuals were considered too liberal or out of the mainstream.
"I think at some point a president puts a nominee forward that can be confirmed," Wicker told CNN in an interview. "Maybe not the first one or the second one but at some point the president gets to put someone on the Supreme Court."
"That's why this race is so important, this race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump," said Wicker, who as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee is a member of the Senate GOP leadership.
Wicker was upbeat about the chances of Republicans, who currently hold a 54-46 seat advantage, to maintain their majority in the new Congress, although he declined to make a prediction about what the final numbers might be. He acknowledged that some of his Senate candidates have been challenged by having Trump, the controversial Republican presidential nominee, at the ticket, and said he expects some of those senators to run ahead of the real estate mogul.
"I think in some states there will be split-ticket voters," such as in Florida where GOP incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio is in a tight battle for re-election
, he said. "But for example the better Trump does in Florida the better Marco Rubio does. I think Marco Rubio will run ahead of Trump but their fates in many ways are tied together."
On the question of a long-term filibuster over Supreme Court nominees, three Republican senators -- Richard Burr of North Carolina, John McCain
of Arizona and Ted Cruz of Texas -- have in different forms mused about not filling the vacancy on the court over the four or eight years Clinton might be in office.
But other GOP senators -- like Jeff Flake of Arizona and David Perdue of Georgia -- have said such a position would untenable.
Wicker said he "wouldn't be surprised" if top Republican leaders decide if Clinton wins to take up during a lame duck session the long-stalled nomination of Garland to the court.
"I wouldn't rule it out as a matter the leadership might decide to take up," Wicker said. "I haven't spoken to them about it."
There has been much speculation the GOP-controlled Senate could act on Garland after the election to allay fears Clinton might pick a younger and more liberal replacement for the late Justice Antonin Scalia
. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his aides have been resolute
that a justice won't be confirmed until next year.
There also has been speculation that if Democrats take control of the Senate, they might try to confirm Garland after the new Senate is sworn-in in early January but before Clinton takes the oath of office on January 20. Realistically, that could only happen if Clinton said she wanted Garland on the court. And such a fast-track move could anger Republicans who could take procedural steps to draw out the process, possibly until after Clinton is sworn-in.
If that were to happen, Clinton would have to re-nominate Garland and begin the process anew.