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Obama warns high court credibility at stake in nominee fight

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., center, joined by, from second for left are, Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas, speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, following a closed-door policy meeting.

WASHINGTON » President Barack Obama accused Senate Republicans today of putting the Supreme Court’s credibility at risk if they make good on their vow not to consider or vote on his pick to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia. He promised to nominate a candidate anyway.

“I’m going to do my job,” Obama said.

Obama, weighing in during an Oval Office meeting, acknowledged that Republicans are under “enormous pressure from their base” to oppose his nominee. But he said if Republicans defy the Constitution by snubbing his nominee, the ability of any future president to pick judges will further erode.

“At that point, not only are you going to see more and more vacancies and the court system break down, but the credibility of the Court begins to diminish because it’s viewed simply as an extension of our politics,” Obama said after a meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah II.

Senate Republicans want to hold off a Supreme Court pick until Obama leaves office in January. Just a day earlier, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said his 54-member GOP caucus was united against taking any step in the Senate’s “advise and consent” process. The Judiciary Committee won’t hold confirmation hearings, he said. The committee and the full Senate will not vote.

The White House insists that unambiguous declaration doesn’t mean game over for the president. Rather, Obama and his team are hoping to select a well-regarded candidate Republicans would be hard-pressed to oppose, then build a public campaign of support for him or her while ratcheting up political pressure on Republicans for standing in the way of fair consideration.

Once Republicans are faced with an actual candidate instead of an “abstraction,” Obama said, opposition might soften. He said he hoped Judiciary Committee members would “recognize that it is their job to give this person a hearing” and then let their conscience dictate their vote on the nominee.

“I don’t expect any member of the Republican caucus to stick their head out at the moment and say that,” Obama said. “But let’s see how the public responds to the nominee that we put forward.”

But Republicans showed no signs of backing down. A few Republicans, including McConnell, have said they would not even meet with the nominee when that person makes introductions on Capitol Hill.

“Why would I? We’ve made the decision,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, a committee member.

Obama’s scuffle with Senate Republicans has reverberated on the presidential campaign trail, with growing prospects that the next president will take office without a Scalia replacement in place. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in a statement today called Republicans’ refusal to consider any appointee “shameful and indefensible.” She said it is offensive to Obama and the American people.

“It’s time for the Senate to put statesmanship over partisanship, and live up to our constitutional principles,” Clinton said.

In his blog post earlier today on the legal site SCOTUSblog, Obama tried to quell conservative concerns that he would choose an unabashedly liberal who would upend the court’s balance. He said he would pick someone who recognized the court’s limits and knows that a judge’s job is to interpret law, not make it.

“I seek judges who approach decisions without any particular ideology or agenda, but rather a commitment to impartial justice, a respect for precedent, and a determination to faithfully apply the law to the facts at hand,” Obama said.

Yet in a nod to Democrats’ interests, Obama also said the law isn’t clear in all cases that reach the high court. He said he was looking for someone whose “life experience” outside the court would allow that person to understand how decisions affect “the daily reality of people’s lives in a big, complicated democracy.”

“There will be cases in which a judge’s analysis necessarily will be shaped by his or her own perspective, ethics, and judgment,” he wrote, adding that he would announce a nominee in the next few weeks.

Filling the vacancy left by Scalia’s unexpected death on Feb. 13 is crucial because the Supreme Court now has a 4-4 ideological split between justices who are usually conservative and its liberal wing. The battle has invigorated both sides’ interest groups and voters who focus on abortion, immigration and other issues before the court.

“He hasn’t seen the pressure that’s going to build,” Sen. Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada said of McConnell. “It’s going to build in all facets of the political constituency and the country.”

After meeting privately with GOP senators Tuesday, McConnell and other leaders said rank-and-file Republicans were overwhelmingly behind the decision to quickly halt the nomination process.

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

Moderate Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., who faces a tough re-election race this fall, are among the few who’ve voiced support for at least holding hearings on an Obama nominee.

Since the Senate started routinely referring presidential nominations to committees for action in 1955, every Supreme Court nominee not later withdrawn has received a Judiciary Committee hearing, according to the Senate Historical Office.

Associated Press writers Alan Fram, Andrew Taylor and Mark Sherman contributed to this report.

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    • Agreed. The Constitution is absolutely clear about how vacancies on the Court are filled. Mitch McConnell is about as loathsome a person as I could concoct. The President should hit him over the head with the failure to act mallet at every opportunity.

        • @Palani, It’s the Repubs in Congress that are unreceptive. On the very day Obama was inaugerated in 2008, they met and vowed to oppose everything he tried to put through. Later McConnell said the R’s #1 priority was to defeat Obama in 2012. They weren’t putting the country first. They were solely thinking of defeating him. When there was so much work to be done in the country, they would rather let it sink than compromise. The R’s in Congress need to learn they were elected to govern, not be dictators.

        • PoiDog, yet, with a veto proof congress for two years, he managed to get little accomplished. Why is that? Gun control? NO. Close G’tmo? NO. Immigration reform? NO. Same sex marriage? NO.

      • “The President shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate…and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint…Judges of the Supreme Court.” -The Senate is advising the Obama that they will not grant their consent. Democrats have done this to Republican presidents, and now the shoe is on the other foot and Republicans are doing the same thing to Obama.

        • Boots: He can’t, obviously. The Senate has never done this before in this manner. It’s disgraceful. Republicans (and people on this board who have no idea what they’re talking about) are perverting what the word “advise” means in this context.

        • Boots – In 2005 when President Bush nominated Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, 24 Democratic Senators voted for a filibuster (including Biden, Kerry, Clinton & Obama).

        • This is my favorite quote by Sen. Harry Reid on the nomination of Alito by President Bush in 2005: “Nowhere in that document (the Constitution) does it say the Senate has a duty to give presidential nominees a vote. It says appointments shall be made with the advice and consent of the Senate. That’s very different than saying every nominee receives a vote.”

        • etalavera: But did the Senate have hearings and confirm Mr. Alito? You can twist the truth and lie any way you choose. Facts are stubborn.

        • etalavera, but Alito got a vote and became SC justice so this is not really an example as today republicans won’t even allow a hearing. They obviously would prefer spending time on a golf course than actually doing their job. Welfare bums to the max. Why anyone would vote for such a bankrupt party that no longer believes in republican values is beyond me. Can you explain?

        • Permit me to opine…… Especially to The “Phony” Liberal Democrats below:
          Why is it that when the Democrats Senators like Senator Schumer and Senator ,then, Biden,also blocked Presidents Bush nominee for SCOTUS. Why is that?but it’s sooooooo BAD when the Republicans do the same??
          One sided??You bet!…..Let’s be fair now ladies and gents!

          This is so bad on the “Optics” because neither side ,the President and The Senate wanted to wait,just a while….Auwe! Justice Antonin Scalia just died!!FCOL!Does anyone get this??
          It’s kinda like the story with the “Greedy Nephew’ who can’t wait to get his hands on the big inheritance ,his late uncle left behind… Ha!ha!ha!

          Here’s a famous quote from your favorite(D) Senator….”It doesn’t matter what anybody said in the Past on SCOTUS”…guess who?? Senator Chuck Schumer. Ha!ha!ha! so funny!

      • It says “advise and consent”. They have fulfilled their constitutional duty by advising the President of their intention.
        It would not be my approach, but I am not in the Senate.

        As for suggesting a violent attack on the current Majority Leader of the Senate, I would not be surprised to find out that this is a federal crime.

        • you’re joking right? seems like the republicans are all for the constitution and upholding it, as long as it benefits them directly.

      • Does the Constitution specify timelines for the president’s appointment? The time allotted for the Senate to advise/consent? The answers are no and no. Is there any obligation of the senate to approve an appointment by the lamest of ducks? No. Should an appointment by an outgoing, failed radical president be confirmed on the eve of a new president being elected? No again. To do so would negate the will of the people in this matter. Obama has already substantially affected the court. To give him the ability to appoint yet another liberal ideologue, this time changing the balance of the court for decades, would be a massive mistake. If the nation wants to do so, the election will decide the matter. Meanwhile, Obama has done enough damage already.

    • Actually, I don’t think it matters if Scalia’s spot is left vacant. Just NOT having Scalia vote is enough to keep the Court relatively liberal. And since the next president will be a democrat anyway (face it – this country may be amused by Trump, but it doesn’t really want him as president), waiting until next year won’t matter.

    • The “you said it first” defense is usually reserved for eight year-olds on a playground, so the fact that you bring it up regarding the Supreme Court of the United States is not a shock.

      You are lying of course, if you suggest that the Senate didn’t have hearings for nominees in the cases you cite. Simply lying. The Senate is made up of 100 people – not the several you mention. I don’t expect you to understand the constitutional issues, but others might want to learn.

        • Of course, you don’t address the substance of the issue. Mr. Alito is now on the Supreme Court.

        • Wrong, klas, the actual substance revolves around the fact that all the GOP is guilty of so far is mimicking the democrats. Why not wait for Barry to do the job he continually reminds us is his, and then see how his nominee is handled.

        • klastr aka kurtonkauai is also a racist..he’s always the 1st to use the Rcard and call opponents “liars” when backed up against the wall and he has no substance to “Defend the Indefensible”…sad angry liberal.

        • Keonigohan: I know you’re obsessed with this “kurt” you so often write about. Is he a former boyfriend or something?

        • The substance of the issue, Klastri, does nor suggest the Senate didn’t have hearings for nominees. The substance is if given the chance, the VP and the next Senate Dem leader would be marching in lockstep with Mitch Mconnell, and the current president at least acted on his conviction on Alito. In the end, they are all Richardheads and to defend one side for acting exactly like the other is intellectually dishonest.

      • klastri, you are lying of course. You also insisted that Deedy would be found guilty and insisted that the City would no longer be conducting sweeps of the homeless camps. If what the R’s are doing is so illegal then call up a posse and arrest them. They are simply taking actions against a president that they feel is tyrannical and are questioning his judgement. We are conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, aren’t we?

      • Everyone here knows, or should know, that you are a racist with a profound personality defect. Your writings here have shown that over and over during Mr. Obama’s term. Tomorrow when you wake up, Mr. Obama will still be black, so another bad day for you.

        • I always wondered why someone who is half European (white) and half African (black) is labelled “black”. This sound vaguely racist to me.

        • Keonigohan: I’m a racist? Of course, that makes as much sense as anything else you write. And I’m so glad that you continue to use (over and over and over) the “Guberment” thing. You used to at least spell his name correctly – his name is Gruber – but you don;t even bother to achieve that level of truth anymore. Why so lazy? Can’t you think up anything else?

        • klastri, the angriest racist liberal I’ve come across here…sad person. His way is the only way…sorta like O.

      • I am in agreement with the opinion of serious on this matter. I do not agree with klastri’s opinions of others, where the personality disorder lies with the accuser.

    • Obama managed to divide Americans like no other previous Presidents. His failed Obamacare will be repealed by Congress when an Republican takes office.

  • I love republicans. Only thing I can say to phony conservatives. Please do not ever complain about welfare bums sucking up tax payer dollars. The Senate is suppose to advise and consent. So why don’t they do it? If they really don’t like a candidate, then say why and then vote him down. Of course the voters may not agree with you come election time but at least you will be doing your job. But this talk about not doing anything just shows republicans to be the welfare bums they are. First the house is only working something like 111 days this year and now the senate doesn’t want to do its job. It is a real shame that the republican part has turned into the welfare bum party.

    • The good news is (and it’s VERY good news) is that it appears their constant failure is coming back to bite the Republicans. If Trump is the head of the ticket, folks at the RNC are predicting losses in the Senate and House of record proportions. Go Trump!

      • If the Donald should ever become president though, republicans might be the most disappointed. After all the Donald has called for increased taxes on hedge fund managers. He correctly called G W Bush out, and he has talked with democrats in the past.

        • O will definitely pick a black, female, liberal, democrat just plug in a name. Where is it written that this agenda comes ahead of the constitution and the nation as a whole. Actually, O’s legacy is that he did more to harm affirmative action than anyone, ever. The rise of you know who attests to how stupid and arrogant O has been in throwing away his power for nothing.

        • GOP will win the 2016 election thereby getting all 3 branches…oh wasn’t that O’s same situation back in 2009 for TWO WHOLE years..and what did he accomplish..OBAMACARE <<

        • Keonigohan: It’s unfortunate that you either don’t know, or don’t remember, that the Senate stopped just about every initiative the President forwarded. Senator McConnell vowed to stop everything the President did on his first week in office, and he used the filibuster rule to do just that. A disgrace that is now helping to sink his party. Go Trump!

    • The Repubs always overplay their hand. They have a Senate majority, so there was no need to be so petty and say they wouldn’t even meet with a nominee; if they all voted in a block, a nominee could never be confirmed, as they have the majority. Therefore, nominees could keep being sent up, and voted down. And they’d be seen to be doing their job. Instead, they chose to set themselves up as obstructionists, and that will work against them.

      • unless obama nominates someone who is acceptable to both parties. If he does that, then they run the risk of looking even worse than if they simply said they won’t look at any candidate, no matter how qualified.

        The republicans are basically gambling. Right now, they have senate majority, and some power in who the president is able to nominate (with a reasonable chance of being accepted). But if they gamble and delay an entire year, it could piss people off, and ensure that the next president is democrat, and lose their senate majority. Not compromising can seriously backfire on them.

      • Scalia’s body was barely cold and the R’s were drooling and wetting themselves, calling out the president and vowing NOT to hold hearings. They don’t know who the president will nominate and they vow NOT to co-operate. What is wrong with people like that? Scalia’s body was barely cold! Their hero was in a morgue in Texas and that’s how they honor his memory? McConnell is despicable. That’s not the sign of a leader. That’s taking the coward’s way out. They refuse to show the American people that they have no credible reason to deny a nominee.

        • Mr Trump will settle the issue in due time. The R’s have taken a page from Hairy Reed’s book.

        • Takes 2 to tango Tita. Obama’s actions have fueled the feud within our own government as well as internationally. He retaliates with actions in a manner to anger those that oppose him as punishment. Keep doing this among leaders of the nation and the world and see what kind of cooperation you get at any level from playground to China.

        • I understand,saveparadise. I guess I just thought the R’s should have been above the fray and not be such noisemakers, considering their reverence for Scalia.

    • Ah yes, welfare bums. And what glorious record of accomplishment can the exalted democrat party point to? In addition to 6 years without a national budget, the following:

      Inflaming an ever increasing racial divide.

      Impoverishing the largest progressive run state, California, with the highest percentage of those living under the poverty line.

      Ignoring our soon to be insolvent entitlement programs (Social Security Disability next year).

      Presiding over the slowest economic recovery, the lowest labor participation rate in 4 decades.

      Squandering US influence in the world at the expense of vital national interests, particularly the Middle East.

      Negotiating a nuclear agreement that will set of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and actually shelter the Iranian nuclear weapons program.

      An immigration policy that amounts to the dissolution of our borders in order to import democrat party voters.

      Use of the IRS like a sort of political gestapo to shut up conservative groups.

      Supporting the sale of baby body parts.

      These appear to be the guiding principles of the Democrat party, either by design or by ignorance, aimed at a slow destruction of the country.

      • and part of the duties of president is nominating a justice (or more than 1), if it becomes necessary. so the people did decide for the 2 4 year terms. After this year, whoever the people vote for is who gets to decide for the next 4 years. I don’t understand why the republicans are crying foul.

  • Obama offered his most expansive description of the qualities he is seeking in a nominee, but it did not include the most important quality – having a deep respect for the Constitution upon which all laws are supposed to be based. There should one litmus test for a Supreme Court justice and that is a proving record of supporting, defending and following the Constitution.

  • Obama should ask the GOP for 3 supreme court candidates (one must be female and another one must be a minority)……….then recommend one and see what happens…

    Obama will have another chance before Nov 2016 to pick a Supreme Court judge since the others are so old…..someone will kick the bucket.

    Come November 2016, Trump will win then the fun begins?…..don’t hold your breath.

    • GOP knows that even attempting to consider a candidate will blowback even harder if he nominates someone that’s acceptable to both parties (such as the justice nomination to a lower court that was approved unanimously by both parties). Therefore, it is a safer stance to simply declare you won’t consider anyone because their stance “let the people decide”, which is an idi0tic stance IMO, as the people already did vote for Obama as president through 2016.

  • You liberals are hilarious. It would be funny if not so sad. What has Obama or the democrats done to enhance bipartisanship with the Republicans. In a few words…ZIP, NADA, NIL. I’m not supporting the GOPe actions, just pointing out some points. Did not Harry Reid sit on over 350 bills from the House, never bringing them to the Senate floor? Did not Obama state, “I won you lost”?
    Did not Obama say, “I have a pen and a phone”? thus throwing gasoline on the fire. Have not the liberals blamed the republicans for every bad thing that has happened in the last 7 years 1 month? It’s never Obama fault. I agree we have idiots on the republican side in Congress, but the same holds true for the democrats. You guys keep the double standard going.

    And for you Hillary supporters, she’s guilty on violating security requirements for her private email server. 100% guilty!!

  • Short-terms, the foolish Republican “leadership” may get its way.

    Long-term, they are making a terrible, terrible mistake that will haunt their remaining membership for decades.

  • Good to see such bi-partisan agreement on this issue. Both Dems and Rep and in near total agreement that in the midst of a presidential election, Supreme Court nominees should be put on hold until the election is over.

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