Obama to meet McConnell, Grassley to discuss Supreme Court vacancy

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 McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPatagonia says to shut stores for a few hours during Global Climate Strike Overnight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi unveils signature plan to lower drug prices | Trump says it's 'great to see' plan | Progressives pushing for changes On The Money: House votes to avert shutdown, fund government through November | Judge blocks California law requiring Trump tax returns | Senate panel approves three spending bills MORE (R-Ky.) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOvernight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi unveils signature plan to lower drug prices | Trump says it's 'great to see' plan | Progressives pushing for changes Trump: 'Great to see' Pelosi plan to lower drug prices Pelosi unveils signature plan to lower drug prices 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 Mason ReidBarr fails to persuade Cruz on expanded background checks Harry Reid warns Trump 'can be reelected' Homeland Security Republican accuses Navy of withholding UFO info MORE (Nev.), the top Senate Democrat, and Judiciary Committee ranking member Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyHillicon Valley: Zuckerberg courts critics on Capitol Hill | Amazon makes climate pledge | Senate panel approves 0M for state election security Senate committee approves 0 million for state election security efforts Senate panel approves three spending bills 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 Grant HatchTrump to award racing legend Roger Penske with Presidential Medal of Freedom Trump awards Presidential Medal of Freedom to economist, former Reagan adviser Arthur Laffer Second ex-Senate staffer charged in aiding doxxing of GOP senators 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.