Kelly Ayotte, who faces a tough re-election fight, would become the fourth Republican senator to meet with President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee although she is sticking with GOP leaders who do not plan to formally consider the choice.
The New Hampshire Republican said Monday that she will sit down with Merrick Garland, chief judge of the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, on April 13.
“I will meet with the president’s nominee out of courtesy and respect,” Ayotte said in a statement. “And I also plan to explain my view that the people should have a voice in this important nomination through their votes in November.”
Ayotte joins the majority of her caucus in the position that the Senate should not hold a hearing or a vote on Garland’s nomination, believing in an election year that the next president, not Obama, should make the selection.
Late Monday, Charles E. Grassley spoke with Garland by phone, according to a committee aide, and the Judiciary chairman invited the jurist to meet him over breakfast, though the place and time remain to be determined.
Grassley, a prominent voice against considering the nomination as his committee weighs such appointments, previously said he would talk with Garland this spring. His decision to meet with him now gives political cover to more Republicans to do the same.
Democrats assert that Republicans are shirking their constitutional duty to consider a court nomination in a timely fashion. They have launched a public effort — the #DoYourJob campaign — over the just-concluded spring recess.
Minutes after Ayotte said she intended to sit down with Garland, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said she and her colleagues are finding it increasingly hard to stay true to the GOP stance on the nomination led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Although a dozen Republicans have agreed to meet with Garland, the caucus so far is holding holding firm on the question of further consideration. They are under intense pressure from conservative groups to do so.
Only Mark S. Kirk, has outright called for a vote, while another, Susan Collins, has said his nomination should be considered. John Boozman of Arkansas, like Ayotte, believes the Senate should not go any further.
The Rothenberg-Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call rates Ayotte’s race in the Granite State as Tilts Republican . Boozman’s seat is rated safe Republican this year, while Kirk is in a tough race in Illinois. Collins is not up for re-election but is a moderate voice in the Senate.
John T. Bennett and Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.
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