Obama to meet McConnell, Grassley to discuss Supreme Court vacancy

Greg Nash

President Obama will convene a long-anticipated meeting at the White House next Tuesday with top Republican senators to discuss the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellCongress fails on promises to restore regular order and stop funding by crisis Overnight Healthcare: Dems dig in over Zika funding Business groups ramp up pressure to fill Ex-Im board MORE (R-Ky.) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles GrassleyChuck GrassleyThe Trail 2016: Meet and greet and grief Iowa poll: Clinton up 14 on Trump, Grassley in tight race with Dem Immigration protesters interrupt Jeh Johnson hearing MORE (R-Iowa) will both attend, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Thursday.

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The spokesman said the meeting was arranged "after a number of conversations, some more awkward than others."

"Ulimately, the president is going to fulfill his duty and it will be up to the Senate to decide if they're going to fulfill theirs," Earnest said of the leaders' handling of the nomination process.

They will be joined by Harry ReidHarry ReidOvernight Finance: Obama signs Puerto Rico bill | Trump steps up attacks on trade | Dodd-Frank backers cheer 'too big to fail' decision | New pressure to fill Ex-Im board Iowa poll: Clinton up 14 on Trump, Grassley in tight race with Dem Lynch meeting with Bill Clinton creates firestorm for email case MORE (Nev.), the top Senate Democrat, and Judiciary Committee ranking member Patrick LeahyPatrick LeahyOvernight Tech: Obama signs FOIA reform bill | Musicians take YouTube fight to Europe | Feds probe first driverless car death Obama signs bill to expand access to federal records Dems leery of Planned Parenthood cuts spark Senate scuffle MORE (D-Vt.).

The scheduling follows a day of public wrangling between the White House and Grassley, who initially did not respond to the president’s request to speak in person about his Supreme Court nominee. 

When Grassley was slow to respond to the invitation, the White House informed Grassley’s hometown newspaper, The Des Moines Register. 

Reid blasted the Iowa Republican, saying he would go down in history as the “most obstructionist” chairman if he denies a hearing to Obama’s pick. Grassley responded that he didn’t care if he goes down in history.  

Obama and his Democratic allies are trying to pressure Republican leaders to abandon their position to not conduct hearings or hold votes for the president’s nominee. 

Democrats say such a move would be unprecedented and hurt the credibility of the court. But Republicans say it should be up to the next president, not Obama, to select Scalia’s replacement.

McConnell and Grassley indicated the meeting would do little to change their minds.

"We look forward to reiterating to him directly that the American people will be heard and the next Supreme Court justice will be determined once the elections are complete and the next president has been sworn into office," the senators said of Obama in a joint statement.

Obama also met with Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin HatchTreasury officials to meet with lawmakers on inversion rules A bipartisan bright spot we can’t afford to pass up: child welfare reform Medicare trust fund running out of money fast MORE (R-Utah), a former chairman of the judiciary panel, on Wednesday to talk about the nomination process. The president or members of his staff have consulted with every member of the Judiciary Committee or their aides since Scalia’s passing on Feb. 13.

The president has said he is looking to name a nominee who has impeccable credentials and brings a nonideological approach to the law.

“A sterling record. A deep respect for the judiciary’s role. An understanding of the way the world really works,” Obama wrote Wednesday on the popular Supreme Court website SCOTUSblog.com.

“That’s what I’m considering as I fulfill my constitutional duty to appoint a judge to our highest court.”

-- This report was updated at 4:55 p.m.