WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Some senior Senate Republicans on Tuesday moved to slam the door shut on any Supreme Court nomination President Barack Obama will make as they voiced opposition to even committee hearings on a replacement for the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
“That’s the consensus view. … No hearing, no vote,” Senate Judiciary Committee member Lindsey Graham told reporters after leaving a private meeting of the panel’s Republicans with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Separately, Senator John Cornyn, the second-ranking Republican behind McConnell, said, “Correct,” when asked by Reuters whether the path forward on any Obama nominee would be to deny that person a committee hearing.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley had previously left open the possibility of convening hearings once Obama nominates a justice. He was not immediately available for comment.
Earlier on Tuesday, in remarks on the Senate floor, McConnell said: “Presidents have a right to nominate, just as the Senate has its constitutional right to provide or withhold consent. In this case, the Senate will withhold it.”
Instead, McConnell said the Senate will await the outcome of November’s presidential and congressional elections before considering any replacement for Scalia, who died on Feb. 13.
McConnell acknowledged Obama’s constitutional right to offer a replacement for Scalia. But he said even Vice President Joe Biden, a Democrat, had argued back in 1992 for postponing action on Supreme Court nominees during an election year.
Senate Republicans were seizing on Biden’s position more than two decades ago to bolster their argument for awaiting the selection of a new president before replacing Scalia.
“The Senate will appropriately revisit the matter after the American people finish making in November the decision they’ve already started making today,” the Kentucky Republican added, referring to the Nov. 8 presidential election.
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid condemned McConnell’s attitude as “obstruction on steroids.”
“Gone are the days of levelheadedness and compromise,” the Nevada Democrat said.
Biden made the statements referenced by McConnell in 1992, when Biden was Senate Judiciary Committee chairman. Biden has said he was speaking hypothetically because there was no Supreme Court vacancy at the time.
Senator Chris Coons, a Democrat, said Obama should nominate “the most qualified, the most confirmable, the most centrist candidate possible,” to help convince more Republicans that they should at least consider the nominee. He noted that some Republicans, including Senator Mark Kirk, have already said the Senate should do so.
(Reporting by David Morgan, Susan Cornwell and Richard Cowan; Editing by Eric Walsh, G Crosse and Jonathan Oatis)