Lott on McConnell, Supreme Court: I probably would have handled it differently

Lott on McConnell, Supreme Court: I probably would have handled it differently
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Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) is suggesting that Republicans would have considered President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee if he still led the Senate.

In a new interview, Lott questions current Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenators near deal on sexual harassment policy change Blankenship third-party bid worries Senate GOP Overnight Finance: Trump signs repeal of auto-loan policy | Justices uphold contracts that bar employee class-action suits | US, China trade war 'on hold' MORE’s (R-Ky.) pledge to block Obama’s pick in the Senate.

“I probably would've handled it differently,” Lott told former top Obama adviser David Axelrod in an episode of the “The Axe Files” podcast published Monday. 

“My attitude, particularly on the Supreme Court, was that elections do have consequences, sometimes bad, and I tried to lean towards being supportive of the president's nominees, Democrat or Republican,” added Lott. 

The Mississippi Republican, who led the Senate from 1996 to 2001, said he tended to support nominees who “were qualified by education, experience and demeanor and had no other side problem.”

Lott voted to confirm Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was nominated by President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonMaybe a Democratic mayor should be president Trump, taxpayers want Title X funding protected from abortion clinics President Trump’s historic rescissions package is a welcome step to cut wasteful spending MORE. But he voted against Clinton’s other nominee to the high court, Stephen Breyer. 

McConnell has come under withering criticism from Democrats for his handling of the vacancy left by the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia. 

The top Republican has promised not to hold hearings or votes for any nominee Obama puts forward, arguing it should be up to the next president to name Scalia’s successor. 

Obama and his Democratic allies have pointed to some Republicans, including Lott, who have second-guessed that approach. The president argues punting on a nomination would hurt the credibility of the court. 

While Democrats have painted McConnell’s stance as unreasonable, Lott said he understands the Kentucky Republican’s approach.

“The problem is in my opinion, and in the opinion of a lot of Republicans, and certainly in the opinion apparently of McConnell, so many of Obama's nominees have been so bad and so far left that the trust factor is not there,” he said. “Was it wise to jump out there the way the leader did? You know, time will tell."

“This is a very critical appointment,” he added. “This appointment could shift the balance of the Supreme Court from 5-4 one way to 5-4 the other way for years. And, you know, that is a problem.”

Lott said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGOP chairman in talks with 'big pharma' on moving drug pricing bill Senate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA This week: House GOP regroups after farm bill failure MORE (R-Iowa) might be willing to go back on his promise not to hold hearings for Obama’s nominee once that person is named.

“If the president comes up with somebody that's credible and is a little bit more mainstream or moderate, I wouldn't be surprised to see Chuck give him a hearing,” he said.