Republican leaders on Wednesday reiterated their commitment to blocking President Obama’s Supreme Court nomination until after the election, asserting that the people should have a role in the choice.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., cited the “Biden rule,” referring to a speech by then-Sen. Joe Biden suggesting in 1992 that his Judiciary Committee would not act on a nomination should a vacancy occur on the Supreme Court during the last year of George H.W. Bush’s term.
“The American people are perfectly capable of having their say — their say — on this issue,” McConnell said on the Senate floor “So let’s give them a voice. Let’s let the people decide.”
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House Speaker Paul Ryan said, “This has never been about who the nominee is.”
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, was succinct when asked by Fox News if Republicans would reconsider their opposition.
“No,” said Lee, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “We’ve been clear.”
A defiant President Obama on Wednesday offered federal appeals court judgeMerrick Garland as his Supreme Court pick and warned that a failure by the Republican-led Senate to act on the nomination would be an abdication of constitutional responsibility.
In nominating Garland, who has been on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals since 1997 and currently serves as its chief judge, Obama acknowledged that Democrats have tried to block Republican-nominated judges.
“I know that Republicans will point to Democrats who have made it hard for Republican presidents to get their nominees confirmed,” Obama said from the White House — without acknowledging that he was one of those Democrats when he participated in a Senate filibuster of Justice Samuel Alito.
In Garland, Obama opted for a judge who has received strong bipartisan support in the past. A majority of Senate Republicans backed his bid for the appeals court. But among Republicans still in the Senate, seven voted “yes,” while five opposed. And some argue that appeals court votes are not related to consideration of Supreme Court nominees, which is a far more intense process.
Anyway, Republicans inside and outside the Senate have argued that Garland’s record is irrelevant. What is at stake, they say, is the larger principle of whether a lame-duck president in the last year of his presidency should make a lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court. The American people, they say, should set the long-term direction of the high court through their vote for president in November.
“I can’t imagine why the Republican Senate would consider accepting an Obama nominee for the swing vote on the Supreme Court,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said on “The Laura Ingraham Show” minutes after the president’s announcement. “This is the vote which could decisively make the court radical and with no holds on it and could end our rights to the Second Amendment and a lot of other rights.”