In a letter written to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Tuesday, GOP members of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary said they won’t hold a hearing on President Barack Obama’s expected nomination to fill Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat in the wake of his death.
Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa in addition to the 10 other GOP lawmakers on the panel said they will wait until after a new president has been sworn in before they consider a nominee, saying they think the American people deserve the opportunity to have a say in the direction the Supreme Court will take.
“We intend to exercise the constitutional power granted the Senate under Article II, Section 2 to ensure the American people are not deprived of the opportunity to engage in a full and robust debate over the type of jurist they wish to decide some of the most critical issues of our time. Not since 1932 has the Senate confirmed in a presidential election year a Supreme Court nominee to a vacancy arising in that year,” they wrote. “And it is necessary to go even further back — to 1888 — in order to find an election year nominee who was nominated and confirmed under divided government, as we have now.”
Democrats have slammed the move – despite their call to block former President George W. Bush’s nominees – saying it’s their duty to hold a hearing. They accused the GOP of “obstructionism.” Republicans argue it is their right under the Constitution to decide on when to take a nominee into consideration.
“As Minority Leader Harry Reid observed in 2005, ‘The duties of the Senate are set forth in the U.S. Constitution. Nowhere in that document does it say the Senate has a duty to give the Presidential nominees a vote. It says appointments shall be made with the advice and consent of the Senate. That is very different than saying every nominee receives a vote,” they wrote.
McConnell cited Vice President Joe Biden’s 1992 remarks advising then-President George H.W. Bush to leave vacancies open and urging the upper chamber not to hold hearings in the case of a justice stepping down to avoid the nominee becoming a “victim” of a “power struggle.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest dismissed the Kentucky Republican’s remarks at a press briefing Tuesday.
“We’ve observed in the past we can spend a lot of time throwing quotes back and forth, and I think that’s indicative of some comments the president made last week about how this process has become politicized,” he said. “But when you consider the record of Sen. Biden and his service on the Judiciary Committee, it’s a record that’s hard to beat.
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito said the Supreme Court will be able to get by with just eight members while speaking at the Georgetown University Law Center Tuesday, The Associated Press reports.
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