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President Obama on Tuesday phoned the second-ranking Senate Republican, John CornynJohn CornynSenate Democrats dig in as shutdown approaches Overnight Energy: Fight over miners' benefits risks shutdown | Flint aid crosses finish line in House Overnight Finance: Senate Dems dig in as shutdown looms | Trump taps fast-food exec for Labor chief | Portland's new CEO tax MORE, amid a major battle over the Supreme Court.
“Appreciate the courtesy of a call from POTUS on SCOTUS nomination and criminal justice reform,” the Texas senator tweeted.
Obama’s conversation with Cornyn comes as Senate Republicans are rallying around a decision not to hold hearings or a vote on a Supreme Court nominee in 2016.
GOP members of the Senate Judiciary Committee announced Tuesday they had reached a consensus not to hold hearings on any person Obama chooses to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
"We believe the American people need to decide who is going to make this appointment rather than a lame-duck president," Cornyn told reporters Tuesday after a meeting of the committee.
That strategy has triggered a battle with the White House and Democrats over filling the vacancy.
Republicans argue the next president — not Obama — should nominate Scalia’s replacement. Any nominee chosen by Obama is sure to tilt the balance of the court to the left.
Obama and his Democratic allies say it would be unprecedented for the Senate to not even give consideration to a nominee. And they argue that leaving an open seat on the high court could affect the outcome of many key cases this summer.
Despite staunch opposition from Republicans, the president has been working the phones to discuss the nomination process. In the past week, he called Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellSenate Democrats dig in as shutdown approaches Overnight Healthcare: Burwell huddles with Dems on fighting ObamaCare repeal Reid: Bring back the earmarks MORE (R-Ky.) and Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyMnuchin, Price meet with GOP senators Business groups express support for Branstad nomination 10 no-brainer ways to cut healthcare costs without hurting quality MORE (R-Iowa).
The president has also phoned Republican and Democratic members of the judiciary panel.
Unrelatedly, Cornyn is a supporter of Obama’s push to overhaul the nation’s sentencing laws. But election-year politics have posed challenges to the bipartisan effort.