© Greg Nash
President Obama on Thursday rebuked Senate Republicans for insisting they won’t consider his Supreme Court nominee.
"One of the most puzzling arguments that I've heard from [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSchumer tees up key Thursday vote on debt deal House approves bill to ease passage of debt limit hike Senate rejects attempt to block Biden's Saudi arms sale MORE and some other Republicans is this notion that the American people should decide,” Obama said in an interview with NPR.
"Well, in fact the American people did decide — back in 2012 when they elected me president of the United States with sufficient electoral votes."
One day after nominating D.C. Circuit Judge Merrick Garland to the high court, Obama is ramping up pressure on Senate Republicans to end their blockage of his nominee.
Garland traveled to Capitol Hill on Thursday to meet with Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidBottom line Voters need to feel the benefit, not just hear the message Schumer-McConnell dial down the debt ceiling drama MORE (D-Nev.) and Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyVermont Lt. Gov. launches bid for US House Lawmakers remember Bob Dole: 'Bona fide American hero' Biden signs four bills aimed at helping veterans MORE (Vt.), the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
He’s expected to meet with the panel’s chairman, Sen. Charles GrassleyChuck GrassleyFormer Sen. Bob Dole dies at 98 Alarm grows over smash-and-grab robberies amid holiday season GOP blocks bill to expand gun background checks after Michigan school shooting MORE (R-Iowa), after the Senate’s two-week recess beginning this weekend.
The selection of Garland disappointed some progressive allies of the president, who were hoping he would add diversity to the high court or pick someone with stronger liberal credentials. But in a conference call with allied organizations, Obama urged them to join the fight.
“So the American people have already had a say, but now what we need to do is make sure the American people will remind senators that they have a job to do,” he said on a conference call Thursday.
“Senators that are trying to obstruct the process need to be told that we expect the Supreme Court to be above partisan politics, and that the court should be operating at full capacity to help the American people.”
Republicans have pledged not to hold hearings or votes on Garland — or anyone else — arguing that voters should first be allowed to pick the next president, who in turn would choose a Supreme Court justice.
"The American people are perfectly capable of having their say on this issue, so let's give them a voice. Let's let the American people decide,” McConnell said Wednesday.
“The Senate will appropriately revisit the matter when it considers the qualifications of the nominee the next president nominates, whoever that might be.”
The stakes are high. Though he has a centrist reputation, Garland would undoubtedly shift the ideological balance of the court to the left, replacing the leader of the court’s conservative wing, the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
Democrats argue the GOP’s stance is unprecedented, saying if Republicans followed through with their plan, they would do irreparable harm to the judicial nomination process.
Obama accused McConnell of having a double standard on whether he should nominate Scalia's replacement.
"They also decided that the Republicans would be in the majority," Obama said of midterm voters in 2014. "They didn't say, 'We're going to decide that you are going to be in charge for three years and then in the last year you all take a break.'
"They say, 'No, you're the president for four years and Mr. McConnell, you're going to be the leader because we've given you a majority in the Senate,' " the president continued.
- Updated at 5:53 p.m.