McConnell: Senate won’t act on Obama Supreme Court nominee – CNN
“That’s exactly what the Republican leader is doing: Delay, delay, delay,” Reid said. He angrily added that “333 days isn’t enough to do the work that we do ordinarily do in 67 days.”
But Democrats are uncertain over whether to bottle-up the Senate in retaliation for the GOP’s hardball move. And for the second day in a row, Vice President Joe Biden is center stage as Senate Republican leaders are growing increasingly confident they can unite their party behind a hard-ball strategy to block any consideration of an Obama nominee.
Republicans are seizing on old Democratic talking points — focused namely on then-Sen. Joe Biden — to make their case against confirmation proceedings.
The latest revelation: A June 1992 interview Biden gave to The Washington Post, arguing against confirmation hearings of a prospective nominee by President George H.W. Bush to the nation’s highest court.
“If someone steps down, I would highly recommend the President not name someone, not send a name up,” Biden, then the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, told the newspaper, noting how close it was to the November elections.
“If (Bush) did send someone up, I would ask the Senate to seriously consider not having a hearing on that nominee,” Biden had said.
The comments from the nearly 24-year-old interview came after Republicans seized on a clip Monday of Biden making similar comments on the Senate floor. In response, Biden pushed back and said the GOP was taking his comments out of context.
“In the same statement critics are pointing to today, I urged the Senate and White House to work together to overcome partisan differences to ensure the court functions as the Founding Fathers intended,” Biden said in a Monday statement. “That remains my position today.”
Nevertheless, the comments gave new ammunition to the hardening GOP lines against anyone the President sends to Capitol Hill.
Republicans are worried that giving the new nominee an opportunity to present his or her case before a national audience will only give the White House momentum in confirming a nominee to replace the late Antonin Scalia, tipping the balance of the court. But it could present bad optics, especially if the nominee is viewed as highly qualified and Republicans refuse to meet with him or her.
Emerging from a leadership meeting Monday evening, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican and member of the Judiciary Committee, flatly said “no” when asked if the Senate should convene hearings, saying voters in November should render the judgment.
McConnell said on the floor Monday night that he and Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley were unified against Obama sending anyone up. Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, a swing GOP vote and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, came out Monday against confirming anyone this year.
And some vulnerable Republicans were prepared to side with their party’s leadership as well, a heartening development for the Senate GOP.
“I think we should not confirm someone this year, I think we should let the people weigh in,” said Sen. Rob Portman, a vulnerable Republican up for reelection from the battleground state of Ohio. “The credibility of the court will be enhanced by that, too.”
The Senate Republican members of the committee plan to huddle Tuesday morning in McConnell’s office before a lunch with the full GOP Conference, where party leaders expect the party to be mostly unified.
But at the same time, two moderate Republicans — Sens. Mark Kirk of Illinois and Susan Collins of Maine — support holding hearings, giving Democrats confidence divisions are bound to grow in the GOP ranks once a nominee is proposed.
“We should take this process one step at a time as we always do under the regular order,” Collins told CNN. “I would expect that there would be a hearing on a nominee when it’s sent to us for our consideration… The hearing would help me make a better decision.”