GOP Judiciary: No hearing on Obama court nominee

Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee have come to a consensus decision to not have hearings or a vote on a Supreme Court nominee in 2016.

ADVERTISEMENT

"We believe the American people need to decide who is going to make this appointment rather than a lame-duck president," Senate Republican Whip John CornynJohn CornynGraham angers Dems by digging into Clinton, Obama controversies Trump tells GOP senators he’s sticking to Syria and Afghanistan pullout  Texas governor, top lawmakers tell Trump not to use hurricane relief funds to build border wall MORE (Texas) told reporters Tuesday after a special meeting of the committee.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham angers Dems by digging into Clinton, Obama controversies Barr’s first task as AG: Look at former FBI leaders’ conduct Debate builds over making Mueller report public MORE (R-S.C.) said members of the panel reached a "consensus" that there should not be hearings or a vote on President Obama's nominee.

"My decision is that I don't think we should have a hearing. We should let the next president pick the Supreme Court justice," he said after emerging from a meeting in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGraham angers Dems by digging into Clinton, Obama controversies Senate GOP eyes 'nuclear option' for Trump nominees next week Taiwan’s President Tsai should be invited to address Congress MORE’s (R-Ky.) office.

The committee Republicans left McConnell’s office and walked straight into a lunch with the party conference to brief their colleagues.

After the meeting, McConnell said the rest of the Senate Republican Conference backed the Judiciary Committee's unanimous position.

And given their recommendation, McConnell said, he wouldn't bother to even meet with an Obama nominee.

"The overwhelming view of the Republican conference in the Senate is this vacancy should not be filled by this lame-duck president," he told reporters.

All 11 members of the panel signed a letter to McConnell Tuesday declaring they would not hold hearings to ensure the next president, not Obama, pick someone to replace the late conservative justice, Antonin Scalia.

“We wish to inform you of our intention to exercise our constitutional authority to withhold consent on any nominee to the Supreme Court submitted by this president to fill Justice Scalia’s vacancy,” they wrote.

Scalia's death has triggered a battle between the White House and Republicans over filling the court vacancy.

The GOP has offered mixed messages since Scalia's death about whether senators would even allow a hearing on an Obama nominee, who, if confirmed, would likely tilt the ideological balance of the court to the left. 

McConnell, within hours of Scalia's death, issued a statement saying that a decision on a nominee should wait until after the presidential election. McConnell, backed by other Republicans, argued this would give voters a bigger role in the decision.

The White House and Democrats have argued that the Senate should consider a nominee from Obama, who is at the beginning of the fourth year of his second term. They have argued that it would be a dereliction of duty for the Senate not to consider a nomination and leave an empty seat on the court for a year or more.

There have been some signs of disunity within the GOP, which faces a tough task in holding on to its Senate majority in a presidential election year.

Sen. Mark KirkMark Steven KirkDems vow swift action on gun reform next year This week: Trump heads to Capitol Hill Trump attending Senate GOP lunch Tuesday MORE (Ill.), perhaps the most vulnerable sitting GOP senator, on Monday said he considered it his "duty" to vote on a nominee from Obama. 

Republicans have sought to use Vice President Biden's past words as a weapon against Democrats.

Biden, in a 1992 floor speech in the Senate, argued that if there were to be a Supreme Court vacancy, it should not be filled until after that year's elections. 

GOP lawmakers on Tuesday cited that speech in their comments.

Biden issued a statement Monday evening arguing his comments are being taken out of context.

McConnell declined to comment to the press, only waving to reporters as he entered the GOP conference lunch meeting.