Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, will meet with President Barack Obama next week on the Supreme Court vacancy, and they will relay their position that the next president should fill the vacancy.
“We look forward to reiterating to him directly that the American people will be heard and the next Supreme Court justice will be determined once the elections are complete and the next president has been sworn into office," the pair said in a joint statement. "And we welcome the opportunity to further discuss matters of mutual interest, like the drug epidemic that’s tearing communities apart across our country.”
Earlier on Thursday, Grassley said he was willing to listen to the president. “I think when the president wants a meeting, I’ll give him the opportunity to make the first statement, find out what he wants to know," Grassley told Roll Call in the Senate basement. "But I think that it’s pretty clear that we will tell the president -- we’ve said that the people should decide. It’s not about one individual.”
The White House confirmed Obama will meet Tuesday with Senate leaders and the top Republican and Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on the court vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia this month.
Senate Democrats, meanwhile, gathered Thursday in front of the Supreme Court, continuing their public campaign to press Republicans for action on finding a successor.
"The obstruction they're contemplating is unprecedented," Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said of Republicans on the steps of the high court. The sign in front of the podium read: "America says to Senate Republicans: Do Your Job."
Grassley, as chairman of the Republican-led committee that considers judicial nominees, is at the center of the partisan storm around filling the court seat in a presidential election year. Republicans made it clear this week that they will not hold a hearing or a vote on the president's eventual nominee, arguing that the next president should put forward a candidate for the job.
Grassley has become a target of Senate Democrats, who argue that the chamber is shirking its constitutional duty to consider a nominee.
On Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., took to the floor and accused Grassley of being inept.
"Senator Grassley has surrendered every pretense of independence and let the Republican leader annex the Judiciary Committee into a narrow, partisan mission of obstruction and gridlock," Reid said.
On the floor Thursday, Grassley responded to Reid's comments saying, "We all know that’s just how some people act when they don’t get their way. But childish tantrums aren’t appropriate for the Senate."
After his speech, he had some more conciliatory words for the minority leader.
“I love Senator Reid. Disagree with him an awful lot," Grassley said in the Senate basement. "He can say whatever he wants about me, but it’s about the issues and I’m not going to counteract. I disagree with his policies.”
Reid also criticized Republican leaders for stating that they would not even meet with the president's upcoming nominee. Asked Thursday if he would do so, Grassley said, "I want it to be about the process and not the person. And I’m not going to do anything that detracts from the process.”
Obama has indicated he would select someone who could garner bipartisan support. On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval of Nevada was being vetted as a potential choice, though the Republican governor issued a statement Thursday that he does not want to be considered for the post at this time.
Grassley reiterated his position Thursday that the nominee should not be granted a hearing. "I think [Republicans] have to stick where this is about a process, not an individual. And if we had a hearing it would be about an individual."
He pointed out that nearly the entire Republican conference agrees with the position that the Senate should not consider Obama's nominee.
He also said he hoped that a debate over the role of the Supreme Court would become a centerpiece of the presidential campaign.
Despite the ongoing partisan standoff, Republicans and Democrats united Thursday afternoon to honor the late justice.
The Senate voted 93-0 to adopt a resolution detailing Scalia's life and accomplishments.
Among the seven senators who did not vote were presidential contenders Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas.
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