Republican Sen. John McCain told local press in Pennsylvania that Senate Republicans would block the confirmation of Democrat presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s U.S. Supreme Court nominees, should she prevail in the November election.
“I promise you that we will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put up,” McCain told WPHT radio in Philadelphia. “I promise you. This is where we need the majority and Pat Toomey is probably as articulate and effective on the floor of the Senate as anyone I have encountered,” he continued, in reference to the incumbent Republican senator he was campaigning with. The comments were first flagged by CNN’s Chris Massie.
There is currently one vacancy on the high court, precipitated by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. A slew of retirees are expected in the next presidency, given the age of several justices. Justice Anthony Kennedy in 80, Justice Stephen Breyer is 78, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who appears increasingly frail on the bench, is 82.
McCain’s office almost immediately hedged his remarks.
“Senator McCain believes you can only judge people by their record and Hillary Clinton has a clear record of supporting liberal judicial nominees,” communications director Rachael Dean told Talking Points Memo. “That being said, Senator McCain will, of course, thoroughly examine the record of any Supreme Court nominee put before the Senate and vote for or against that individual based on their qualifications as he has done throughout his career.” (RELATED: Lee: Senate May Have To Confirm Liberal SCOTUS Justice If Hillary Wins)
Professor Carl Tobias of University of Richmond School of Law, an expert in federal judicial selection, points out McCain’s comments contradict the Republican rationale for blocking the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland, the president’s choice to succeed Scalia. “It also points out the need for GOP senators, especially those up for reelection, to clarify what they intend to do in the lameduck on Garland and in the future on other SCOTUS vacancies, if Hillary Clinton wins,” he told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “The GOP mantra of ‘let the people decide’ rings hollow, if GOP senators intend to block any SCOTUS nominee proposed.”
Senate Republicans have been somewhat accommodating of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominees. 9 Republicans voted to confirm Justice Sonia Sotomayor in 2009, and 5 voted to confirm Justice Elena Kagan. Kagan’s 63-37 confirmation vote was strangely more contested than Sotomayor’s 68-31 vote, given that Sotomayor is a more stridently progressive voice. In the last two years, however, Republicans have successfully blocked a number of the president’s nominees to federal courts around the country.
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