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GOP Senators: No hearing, no vote for Obama Court pick

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell walks to his office from the chamber where he offered a tribute to the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia whose death has triggered an election-year political standoff, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday.

WASHINGTON >> Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday ruled out any hearing for President Barack Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, insisting that the choice rests with the president’s successor.

“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,” the panel’s GOP members said in a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Even the most divisive nominees for the high court have received a hearing before the Judiciary Committee, and the election-year decision to deny such a session is a sharp break with the Senate’s traditional “advise and consent” role. A committee review and a hearing is the first step in the process.

The GOP action is certain to have repercussions, not only in the presidential race but congressional contests where vulnerable Senate incumbents in Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire face tough Democratic challengers.

At least one of those senators, Republican Mark Kirk of Illinois, has suggested holding hearings, putting him at odds with fellow Republicans.

GOP members of the committee met with McConnell in a closed-door session and emerged with a simple message: “No hearing, no vote,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

“We believe the American people need to decide who is going to make this appointment rather than a lame-duck president,” said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the Senate’s No. 2 Republican and like Graham, a member of the Judiciary Committee.

Hearings would be “a waste of time,” added Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

Confirmation hearings for a Supreme Court nominee are the most high profile in the Senate and any session is certain to be a spectacle. Among the members of the panel is Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, and the Texas senator has vowed to block any nominee.

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., when asked about hearings, said, “Oh why even put that ball on the field? All you’re going to do is fumble it. Let the people decide.”

As a rationale for their decision, Republicans pointed to a 1992 speech by Vice President Joe Biden, then the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, in which Biden said that in a presidential election year the Senate should “not consider holding hearings until after the election.”

“Instead, it would be our pragmatic conclusion that once the political season is under way, and it is, action on a Supreme Court nomination must be put off until after the election campaign is over,” said Biden, then the Delaware senator.

As it turned out, there was no opening on the court that year.

Earlier in the day, McConnell said his party won’t permit a vote on any Supreme Court nominee submitted by Obama and will instead “revisit the matter” after the presidential election in November.

“Presidents have a right to nominate just as the Senate has its constitutional right to provide or withhold consent,” the majority leader said in a speech on the Senate floor. “In this case, the Senate will withhold it.”

Scalia’s unexpected Feb. 13 death ignited a major fight in Washington over whether Obama should be able to replace him in a presidential election year. McConnell offered one of the first salvos; Scalia had only been dead for a few hours when McConnell announced that he would oppose replacing him before the election.

But McConnell’s remarks Tuesday were his first explicit statement that he would oppose a Senate vote.

McConnell was at the center of a battle a decade ago over Democratic filibusters of judicial nominees of President George W. Bush and, after Democrats took over the chamber in 2007, repeatedly said Bush’s judges deserved up or down votes.

Top Judiciary Committee Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont said the GOP’s promised obstruction was unprecedented.

“During my time on the committee, we have never refused to send a Supreme Court nominee to the full Senate for a confirmation vote, even when the majority of the committee opposed the nomination,” Leahy said. “And once reported to the full Senate, every Supreme Court nominee has received an up or down confirmation vote during my more than four decades in the Senate.”

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    • Since 1789, the SCOTUS has had anywhere from five to ten (Lincoln 1863) justices on the court. Originally, it was six, with good reason. It could work with eight, definitely. It is Congress, not the Constitution itself, which decides how many justices there are on the court. Both sides play “games” with this system, and both sides cry foul.

    • First, there is nothing in the Constitution that states how many Justices there should be on the Supreme Court. It doesn’t even say that the President MUST nominate anyone, it is at his pleasure. In addition, there is nothing in the Constitution that says the Senate must even hold hearings on a nominee if the choose not too.

      With less than 8 months left in the current debacle, let’s have the people of the United States chose the future direction of the country through the ballot box, and so the next judge that will reflect that direction. Besides are you worried that a Republican will win the White House?

      Just like President Harrison did concerning the offer to annex Hawaii. He only had a matter of months left in office and said it was too important of an issue. So, he left it to the new President, whom ever that might be, to decide. As it turned out the next President Cleveland was against annexation.

      • Why wait? Face it you just don’t like seeing the court heading back to a more moderate position. Well get used to it. lol

        When Hillary or Sanders nominate Obama, you might regret saying no to his nomination. 🙂

    • DemBones, No, it is a respect for the Constitution of the United States that the U.S. Senate Judicial Committee not hold any hearings. Under the U.S. Constitution the U.S. Senate advises and consents. The U.S. Senate, according to VP Biden, are conforming to the Constitution and expressing their responsibility.

      • How are they advising and consenting if they don’t even do their job and hold hearings? No, the republicans have no respect for the constitution which they just consider that da*n piece of paper. The republicans are worse than welfare bums. They suck up tons of money but are not willing to work. No wonder they haven’t had any accomplishments since Eisenhower.

        • Peter, the Republicans control the Senate and have the responsibility and authority to hold hearings, if they so choose. It’s stated in the U.S. Constitution. Not holding the hearing on the next Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court is exercising their responsibility and authority as VP Joe Biden laid out on the Senate floor.

    • Incredible string of comments here. As expected, it doesn’t take much to see who has no idea what the Constitution says, much less requires (that would be the “hate laced” liberal attacks, which are pretty obvious) and those who actually know what the rule of law is (most conservative commentary below). All the liberal readers of the SA would do themselves some good, while your at your computers, to go on YouTube and google all the videos of Schumer, Reid, and Biden stating the (then) Republican President should not (will not) be allowed to nominate a SCOTUS Justice in the President’s last year of office. Just like a liberal, always want to change the rules to accommodate your whims, whenever, whatever they are, at any given point in time. Not a philosophy of principled positions, but an outlook on life guided entirely by whatever makes you all “feel good.” Absolutely stunning idiocy.

      • There is no doubt that the senate is within its right to delay delay and delay some more. That is what we have come to expect from republicans. They offer nothing else.

        The fact is though the president is within his right to nominate a replacement for the SC. Now if republicans want to be the welfare bums they are, they can just refuse to take it up. But may I suggest that you republicans return your pay check from now on? Your hypocrisy is simply amazing. Tell me do you take lessons from welfare bums on skid row?

        • Peter, if the U.S. Supreme Court votes 4 to 4 on the pending cases presented before it, the Republicans and Conservatives win by virtue of the lower Courts decision will stand. For example, in Friedrichs v. CTA, the 9th Circuit ruled in favor of CTA allowing the State of California to continue to withhold a portion of the dues for the Teachers Union in its collective bargaining work. So, is the 5th Circuit’s decision against Planned Parenthood, closing a number of clinic’s in Texas.

  • I’m no democrat and I think obama is one of the worse presidents ever but this is another illustration of why most people feel our political system is broken.

    • Well I am a democrat and I consider Obama to be one of the best presidents ever. He took us out of the worst economic meltdown since the great depression with zero help from the party of No. He negotiated the Iran deal which should help to keep the world safe from nuclear war for awhile. Stock market is a lot better today than when the prior president was in charge. Worst presidents tend to be on the republican side. G W Bush, Tricky Dick, Reagan…..Shame republicans no longer believe in an Eisenhower or Lincoln.

  • This repulsive refusal to perform one of the Senate’s most important Constitutional duties is the crowning achievement of the Republicans’ 7-year effort to de-legitimize an African-American President. As their party’s current front-runner proves, they should be honest and change their name to The White Nationalist Party.

    • Again, There is nothing in the Constitution that says the Senate MUST ACT on a nominee is they choose not to. It is at their discretion. If it was the other way around do you really believe Harry Reid and company would do different? Really?

    • The President has the choice to nominate someone. The Senate has choice to refuse to advise and consent. Now you are making it into a racist issue. No wonder your comments cannot be taken seriously.

      • Everyone already realizes it’s not a racial issue, it’s a philosophical one, but I really disagree with the GOP refusing to consider a nominee. Their wiser path would be to allow Obama to do his job and offer a candidate, who then could be judged on his or her merits. Our president is smart enough to realize he’d need to select the most palatable nominee in order to stand a chance of success.

        • Hawaiikone, “palatable nominee” is an interesting belief. Palatable does not even come close to the ideology of a Justice Scalia. Best you read up on Justice Scalia and why he is so respected. Also, the United States must have more Associate Justices who are Originalests on the U.S. Constitution.

        • kuro, I certainly support an “as written” approach to constitutional interpretation, and as such disagreed with the Obamacare decision. I have read a few of Scalia’s dissenting opinions, and by in large agreed with him. Yet a few of his quotes have revealed what I consider to be an antiquated understanding of acceptable race relations, particularly in light of our evolving society. What I believe we need is a color blind politically moderate originalist willing to demand that Congress perform their job rather than depend upon the court to do so. If Barry can offer such a candidate, I see no legitimate reason to reject him based solely on partisanship. And if the democrats take both Congress and the White house, the ensuing nominees may be far from “palatable”.

    • The Senate is fulfilling one of their most important Constitutional duties, proving once again that the bs detector needs more calibration than a british sports car.

  • Its the Presidents job to nominate, and the Senate’s job to consent or not, so it seems to any observer that they are indeed doing doing their Constitutional right to not consent. Know what is says…

  • Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is one of the reasons the US Senate is looked at by the world as one of the most backwards, bureaucratic, obtuse, inbred, incompetent organizations next to the US Congress.

    Acting like red headed step children, they whine when they can’t have their way. So laughable these baboozes.

    Word is Mitch is suffering from the advanced effects of Dementia, Alzheimers and ED. Exactly why he is such an angry, petty, old man.

  • Mitch McConnell has agreed with Obama more than he disagreed, he has passed just about everything the president has asked for, so when he finally disagreed with Obama, I must admit I was impressed. He is the reason Trump is so popular among the Republicans. Obama has made one poor decision after another, today he said he wants to send terrorists to American soil, so he has done enough damage already, no need to send an incompetent nominee to the Senate to make a circus and a mockery of the whole process. Yes it is his right to nominate someone, but it is Obama’s right and good sense to let the next president come up with the nominee, but with Obama’s divisive nature, don’t count on him doing something that will help to unite America.

  • 24 Republican Senators are up for re-election this fall. Shouldn’t they follow the logic of their fellow Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee and do nothing – not vote, not filibuster, not propose legislation – until after the re-election?

  • Let the POTUS ask the GOP for three GOP candidates to replace Scalia, one must be female and one a minority………..pick one and propose to the Senate.

    You know the President will get another chance to pick a judge before Nov since they are all so old.

    It will be interesting to see who Trump picks?……how about me?

  • it is the prerogative of the potus to appoint candidates to fill vacancies at the scotus.

    it is the senate’s responsibility to confirm or deny candidates an appointment to scotus.

    it is also the prerogative of the sitting potus during senate recesses to appoint scotus candidates, without senate approval, to fill vacancies.

    checks and balances.

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