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GOP Leaders Won't Budge on Supreme Court Nominee

Democrats call for hearing and vote on Merrick Garland

McConnell, left, and Reid, right. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Minutes after President Barack Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, Senate Republican leaders made clear Wednesday they have no intention of giving the long-time judge a hearing or a vote.  

Later some GOP senators suggested they might be open to considering Garland's nomination in the lame duck session after the November election.  

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, D-Ky., was emphatic Wednesday morning that the Senate would not take up the nomination. In an impassioned speech on the Senate floor, McConnell repeated three times that the decision not to conduct hearings was “about a principle and not a person.”  

“It is a president’s constitutional right to nominate a Supreme Court Justice and it is the Senate’s constitutional right to act as a check on a president and withhold its consent...,”  

“It seems clear that President Obama made this nomination not—not with the intent of seeing the nominee confirmed, but in order to politicize it for purposes of the election," he added.  

Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley said Wednesday the voters should have a say in filling the vacancy left with the Feb. 13 death of Justice Antonin Scalia.  

"The American people shouldn’t be denied a voice," he said in a statement.  

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and others left open the possibility of dealing with a nomination after the November election. And at least two GOP senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Jeff Flake of Arizona, said they would meet with Garland.  

Senate Democrats renewed their push to ensure that the president's pick receives due consideration.  

"I do hope they will do their constitutional duty and give President Obama's nominee a meeting, a hearing, and a vote," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. "[Obama's] doing his job this morning. The Republicans should do theirs from this point forward."  

New York Democratic Sen. Charles E. Schumer called Garland "a thoughtful jurist with impeccable credentials."  

“We hope the saner heads in the Republican Party will prevail on [Judiciary Chairman] Chuck Grassley and Mitch McConnell to do their job and hold hearings so America can make its own judgement as to whether Merrick Garland belongs on the court.”  

Several Republicans agreed with McConnell that the Garland selection did not change their view that a nomination should not be considered until 2017, when a new president is in office.  

"It's not about the nominee. It's about the process," said Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan.  

The sunny Rose Garden ceremony drew several Democratic senators. Reid and Senate Judiciary Ranking Member Patrick Leahy of Vermont were standing in the front row in the White House Rose Garden before President Obama announced his Supreme Court pick.  

Also mingling were Democratic Sens. Richard Durbin of Illinois, Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken of Minnesota, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Chris Coons of Delaware, Dianne Feinstein of California and  Cory Booker of New Jersey  

The senators nodded in unison when Obama called on the Senate to take up Garland's nomination.  

Reid on the Senate floor that said the president's nominee would have the necessary education, judicial experience, and awareness of the judiciary's role in society.  

"I have no idea how hard this must have been for the president," Reid said. "I have no doubt that President Obama's nominee possesses these important attributes that I just outlined."  

"I hope that President Obama's nomination of an exceptionally qualified  and consensus nominee will present Republicans to change course," Reid later added.  

Niels Lesniewski, Jason Dick, Lindsey McPherson and John T. Bennett contributed to this report.

Contact Bowman at  bridgetbowman@rollcall.com  and follow her on Twitter at @bridgetbhc .

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