WASHINGTON – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, doubling down on his opposition to President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, said Sunday that there’s no way the Republican-controlled Senate will hold a confirmation vote – not even after the November election.
In the party-line fight over whether to hold a confirmation vote on Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, Republicans have insisted on allowing the next president to fill the seat vacated by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. But that has raised speculation about what might happen if a Democrat wins in November: Would the GOP members of the Senate relent and accept Garland, who has a relatively moderate record? Or would Obama withdraw the pick, allowing the next president to make a different choice?
McConnell dismissed the notion of a lame-duck confirmation vote.
“I can’t imagine that a Republican-majority Senate, even if it were soon to be a minority, would want to confirm a judge who would move the court dramatically to the left,” McConnell said on “Fox News Sunday.” “That’s not going to happen.”
Likewise, White House chief of staff Denis McDonough said that Obama will not withdraw Garland’s name, no matter what happens in November.
“We will stand by him from now until he is confirmed and he’s sitting on the Supreme Court,” McDonough said, also on Fox News. That means Obama will stick by Garland through the end of his term, McDonough said.
Garland, 63, a former federal prosecutor who supervised the Oklahoma City bombing case, is chief judge of the court of appeals for the District of Columbia. He has a record as a cautious centrist who has been deferential to executive authority.
McConnell’s redrawing of his tough line against the Senate taking up the nomination came as some members of his party have been suggesting that Garland should get a hearing and a vote. On Friday, Republican Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois said his colleagues should just “man up and take a vote.”
McConnell, noting that Kirk is running for re-election this fall, said that won’t happen. “President Obama calling this judge a moderate doesn’t make him a moderate,” he said, saying the real issue is “the impact this will have on this court for a quarter century.”
Democratic Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the minority leader, on Sunday predicted that Garland would ultimately prevail.
“Mitch McConnell has said a lot of things,” Reid said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “But his Republican senators are not going to go over that cliff with him. They’re not going to do it. As I told Merrick Garland, ‘This is going to break. You’re going to become a Supreme Court justice.’ ”
Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich, a candidate for president, made waves on Saturday when he suggested he would be open to nominating Garland if he’s elected. “He received, you know, overwhelming support, I think even from Sen. (Orrin) Hatch, so of course we’d think about it,” Kasich said in an interview for CBS’ “Face the Nation” that aired Sunday. Kasich was referring to Garland’s appointment to the federal bench during President Bill Clinton’s administration.
Kasich later walked back that statement. “In an effort to be polite today, apparently I’ve created a little bit of a situation,” he told reporters. “He’s not going to be my pick for the Supreme Court.”