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Sunday, May 26, 2024 | Back issues
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Republicans Put the Freeze on SCOTUS

WASHINGTON (CN) - Republicans in control of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday declared they will not hold confirmation hearings for President Barack Obama's nominee to fill Justice Antonin Scalia's Supreme Court seat under any circumstances.

In taking the united stand, party leaders said they were making good on a week of threats to stall filling the vacant seat until after the presidential election this fall.

Sen. John Cornyn , R-Texas, told reporters Tuesday afternoon after emerging from the weekly caucus lunch that the 10 Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee had signed a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recommending there should not be a hearing on any nominee Obama hands down.

"The reason for that is because it's not about the personality, it's about the principle," said Cornyn, who serves on the Judiciary Committee. "The principle being that it's up to the American people in this next election, no matter who they choose, to make the nomination for this important seat on the Supreme Court."

Republicans have maintained ever since Scalia's death on Feb. 13 that they would hold off on nominating a replacement for the late conservative justice until after the presidential election, claiming the people should choose the person who gets to tap the next replacement rather than a lame duck president.

"In my view, and I can now confidently say the view shared virtually by everybody in my caucus, that the nomination should be made by the president the people elect in the election that's underway right now," McConnell said.

Republican leadership at a press conference Tuesday repeatedly brought up past statements by their Democratic counterparts advocating for delays in filling vacancies, arguing Democrats would be doing the same thing if in the Republicans' position.

"We know what would happen if the shoe was on the other foot," McConnell said. "We know what would happen. A nominee of a Republican president would not be confirmed by a Democratic Senate if the vacancy was created in a presidential election year. That's a fact."

McConnell also said he would not "be inclined" to even take a meeting with a potential nominee, as he would not see the point of such a meeting. Cornyn agreed, saying he does not see the point of "going through the motions" with a nominee doomed to fail.

Senate Democrats slammed Republicans at a press conference immediately after the Republicans', tying the party's defiance of traditional process to presidential candidates Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz.

Democratic leadership sloughed off criticism of their past statements, especially those Vice President Joe Biden made a 1992 speech on the Senate floor arguing for the delay of a nomination to the Supreme Court until after the presidential campaign. The comments, unearthed this week from C-SPAN archives have been a common talking point for Republicans looking to delay the nomination.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the difference between his party's past statements and the Republicans' current action is that Democrats never actually blocked a nominee as Republicans have decided to.

Reid and his leadership team repeated the three word phrase "do your job" of some variation several times during the press conference and described this move as another in a series of actions by an obstructionist Republican Senate.

"It's a sad day when the world's greatest deliberative body won't deliberate," Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said.

Still, Democrats seemed confident Republicans could cave on their hard line stance, likening it to the 2013 fight over the government shutdown.

"Senator McConnell, who has tried for a year to build this idea for a year to build this idea that the Senate is working and that Republicans are not obstructionist knows this is the wrong thing to do, but he can't resist the clarion call of the hard right," Schumer said. "And like in 2013, they will have to back off their position with their tail between their legs."

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