Drawing outrage from many sides, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee decided in a closed door meeting on Tuesday afternoon to deny hearings or a vote on a Supreme Court nominee in 2016.
“This committee will not hold hearings on any Supreme Court nominee until after our next president is sworn in on Jan. 20, 2017,” committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (Iowa) and the other 10 Republican members said in a letter (pdf) Tuesday to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“That’s the consensus view…No hearing, no vote,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters as he left the meeting that took place in McConnell’s office.
Graham told CNN separately “he would not even meet with any nominee, should he or she make courtesy calls” on Capitol Hill.
The death of Justice Antonin Scalia, which left the nation’s highest court evenly split, has spurred a heated debate over whether President Barack Obama should appoint a replacement or wait for the next administration to make a decision.
“Presidents have a right to nominate just as the Senate has its constitutional right to provide or withhold consent. In this case, the Senate will withhold it,” McConnell said Tuesday morning on the Senate floor. “The Senate will appropriately revisit the matter after the American people finish making in November the decision they’ve already started making today.”
Justifying their position, several members of the committee cited then-Sen. Joe Biden’s 1992 remarks, in which he said the panel ought to “seriously consider” not holding hearings on a nominee for an election-year vacancy. Biden has argued that the GOP is taking his statement out of context.
The committee’s decision drew withering criticism from inside and outside Congress.
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