Senate Republicans have declared, in no uncertain terms, that not only will they refuse to confirm any nominee of President Obama’s choosing to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, they will refuse to meet with an Obama nominee at all.
According to the New York Times, Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans issued a letter on Tuesday unanimously refusing to schedule any confirmation hearings: “Because our decision is based on constitutional principle and born of a necessity to protect the will of the American people, this committee will not hold hearings on any Supreme Court nominee until after our next president is sworn in on January 20, 2017.
Speaking on the Senate floor, majority leader Mitch McConnell went a step further, asking the president to reconsider whether he should even nominate anyone at all. “He has every right to nominate someone. Even if doing so will inevitably plunge our nation into another bitter and avoidable struggle, that is his right. Even if he never expects that nominee to actually be confirmed but rather to wield as an electoral cudgel, that is his right.”
“But he has also has the right to make a different choice. He can let the people decide and make this an actual legacy-building moment rather than just another campaign roadshow.”
Two Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Mark Kirk of Illinois, have said they would be willing to vote. Democrats hope that other senators facing re-election in swing states like New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin will also be willing to break ranks.
Filling the vacancy left by Scalia’s unexpected death on Feb. 13 is crucial because without him, the Supreme Court is left in a 4-4 ideological knot between justices who are usually conservative and its liberal wing. The battle has invigorated both sides’ interest groups and voters who focus on abortion, immigration and other issues before the court.
“He hasn’t seen the pressure that’s going to build,” Reid said when asked if McConnell might relent. “It’s going to build in all facets of the political constituency and the country.”
No. 3 Senate leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said McConnell wanted to quickly end any talk of a nomination process proceeding because, “He wants to lock his people in because he knows the whirlwind’s coming.”
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said it was “absolutely” possible the Senate would end up holding hearings, pointing to statements by Collins, Kirk and others. Earnest said Obama has spoken in the last day to Republican lawmakers, including some on the Judiciary panel.
Meanwhile, at Georgetown University, where law school students mourning Scalia’s death were “traumatized” yesterday over a reply-allpocalypse, Justice Samuel Alito seemed unconcerned with Senate Republicans obstructionism. “We will deal with it,” he said.