GOP senator: 'Nobody really believes' next president should fill Supreme Court vacancy
© Greg Nash

Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeOn The Trail: Arizona is microcosm of battle for the GOP Trump looms large over fractured Arizona GOP Why Republican politicians are sticking with Trump MORE is knocking his party's Supreme Court strategy, arguing the opposition to taking up President Obama's nominee boils down to politics. 

The Arizona Republican, who is a member of the Judiciary Committee, told The Daily Beast that "nobody really believes" a Supreme Court seat should remain vacant until the next president is sworn in.  
"Our position shouldn’t be that the next president ought to decide. Nobody really believes that, because if this were the last year of a Republican presidency nobody would say that,” Flake said. 
His comments pit him against GOP leaders, who argue the entrenched court fight is not about a person, but the principle that Supreme Court vacancies should not be filled during a presidential election year. They have pledged to block Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland, from getting a hearing or a vote. 
But Flake appeared to criticize that thinking, arguing GOP senators should focus instead on getting the "most conservative justice" to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February. 
"That ought to be the principle, and that would allow for us to go with Garland if the alternative is somebody more liberal," he added. 
Flake opened the door earlier this year to confirming Garland during a lame-duck session if Democrat Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonCommunion vote puts spotlight on Hispanic Catholics Trump's biggest political obstacle is Trump The Memo: Some Democrats worry rising crime will cost them MORE wins the presidential election in November. 
At the time, he predicted more Republicans would be open to the idea and would prefer to confirm Garland, considered a moderate, versus a potentially more liberal pick from Clinton.