Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellPoll: Senate should confirm Gorsuch Cardboard cutouts take place of absent lawmakers at town halls GOP groups ramp up pressure on lawmakers over ObamaCare MORE (R-Ky.) on Wednesday shot down the idea of Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland getting a hearing.
McConnell insisted in a floor speech that the vacancy should be filled by the next president.
"The Senate will continue to observe the 'Biden Rule' so the American people have a voice in this momentous decision. The American people may well elect a president who decides to nominate Judge Garland for Senate consideration. The next president may also nominate somebody very different. Either way, our view is this: Give the people a voice in filling this vacancy."
“This has never been about who the nominee is. It is about a basic principle. Under our Constitution, the president has every right to make this nomination, and the Senate has every right not to confirm a nominee.
"I fully support Leader McConnell and Chairman [Chuck] Grassley's [R-Iowa] decision not to move forward with the confirmation process. We should let the American people decide the direction of the court."
President Obama on Wednesday nominated Garland, the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, to the Supreme Court.
Obama animatedly called on Republicans to allow a hearing and vote on the nominee.
"It is tempting to make this confirmation process simply an extension of our divided politics, the squabbling that's going on in the news every day," he said. "But to go down that path would be wrong. It would be a betrayal of our best traditions and a betrayal of the vision of our founding documents.
"This is precisely the time when we should play it straight."
McConnell said just hours after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia last month that the vacancy should be filled by the next president.
As he has done repeatedly, McConnell on Wednesday cited remarks Vice President Biden made when he was Senate Judiciary Chairman in 1992. At the time, Biden said a hypothetical Supreme Court opening should not be filled during a presidential election year, and that it was acceptable for the court to only have eight justices temporarily.
"President Obama and his allies may now try to pretend this disagreement is about a person, but as I just noted, his own vice president made clear it’s not," McConnell continued. "The Biden Rule reminds us that the decision the Senate announced weeks ago remains about a principle, not a person."
McConnell implored his colleagues to focus on bipartisan legislation to combat drug abuse.
"We just passed critical bipartisan legislation to help address the heroin and prescription opioid crisis in our country. Let’s build on that success. Let’s keep working together to get our economy moving again and make our country safer, rather than endlessly debating an issue where we don’t agree."
—Updated at 12:31 p.m.