Politics

McConnell: No Lame Duck Court Confirmation

Senate will not confirm Merrick Garland even after election, he says

Mitch McConnell said he ruled out the possibility of a lame-duck confirmation. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate will not consider the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to a Supreme Court post during a lame-duck session, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday.  

Asked on CNN's "State of the Union" if he was "ruling it out, 100 percent," the Kentucky Republican responded, "Yes."  

President Barack Obama nominated Garland, the chief judge of the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left when Justice Antonin Scalia died Feb. 13. Senate Republicans have vowed not to give Garland a vote or a hearing , arguing the next president should fill the spot.  

But following Garland's nomination last week, a handful of Republicans suggested they would be open to considering confirming Garland after the elections if a Democrat wins the White House, rather than allow that person to place a more liberal justice on the court next year.

"We're not going to be confirming a judge to the Supreme Court under this president," McConnell said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

He said he was willing to accept the risk that if elected,  Hillary Clinton could nominate someone further to the left.

"Well, it's my hope, it'd be hard to be more liberal than Merrick Garland, but it's my hope that she will not be making the appointment," McConnell said.

Also appearing on "Meet the Press," Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said he did not believe the Republican blockade would hold up.

"Mitch McConnell has said a lot of things. But his Republican senators are not going to go over that cliff with him. They're not going to do it," the Nevada Democrat said. "As I told Merrick Garland, 'This is going to break. You're going to become a Supreme Court justice.'"

Reid predicted the high court battle could help precipitate a Democratic wave.

"Their excuses are lame. They're going to wind up as a result of this losing Senate seats they shouldn't have lost. I'm kind of glad they're doing it, but it's so foolish," Reid said. "McConnell is leading his Senate over the cliff. And I am telling everybody that's watching this, the senators aren't going to allow that."

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a GOP presidential candidate, backed McConnell's strategy, noting that the American people should have a voice in the direction of the court. But Kasich said on CBS' "Face the Nation" that they "probably ought to all sit down and meet with the guy."

McConnell made the rounds to several other Sunday shows to defend his decision not to consider the president's nominee.

On "Fox News Sunday," McConnell was asked about some Republican senators breaking rank on the issue, specifically Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., who called on the Senate to "just man up and cast a vote."

Kirk is in a tight re-election race, which the Rothenberg-Gonzalez Political Report/Roll Call rates as tilts Democratic.

"Well, Senator Kirk is a terrific senator," McConnell said. "He’s running for re-election this year. He’s going to be re-elected in November.”

McConnell said on ABC's "This Week" that it is important for GOP candidates in competitive races to be able to "appeal, based on their own records and their own views, to the voters who will be participating this fall."

On CNN, McConnell answered a question about whether the party's decision not to consider Garland would hurt GOP senators in tight races by saying that the National Rifle Association opposes Garland. "There’s a lot of interest on both sides of this issue," he said.

Beyond Kirk calling for a vote, a handful of other Republican senators have agreed to meet with Garland. White House chief of staff Denis McDonough said on "Fox News Sunday" that Garland will meet with Sen. Susan Collins of Maine when the chamber returns from recess in April.

McDonough also said Obama intends to keep Garland as his nominee until Jan. 20, 2017, his final day in office, if necessary.

John Bennett contributed to this report.

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

Contact Lesniewski at nielslesniewski@cqrollcall.com and follow him on Twitter at @nielslesniewski.

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