Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has a theory about why Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will not consider the White House’s Supreme Court nominee, even as polls suggest the GOP leader’s position could hurt Republican incumbents at the polls.
“The only explanation is that McConnell’s more concerned with avoiding being ousted like Boehner than protecting vulnerable senators,” Reid said on Friday, referring to prior efforts by House conservatives to push former Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio into yielding the gavel.
Reid’s remarks came as he released a Democratic poll showing that Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman could face blowback in his tough re-election bid this fall, given that 57 percent of Ohioans in a telephone survey conducted last week favored hearings and votes on the Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland, chief judge of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“This is across the board,” Reid said after the poll results were revealed Friday morning. A day earlier, he said the GOP’s stand,”will only make a bigger, bigger foundation for us taking back the Senate.”
Republicans responded that Garland, does not even have the support of one of the Democratic candidates for president. Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders said in Thursday’s debate that, if elected, he would choose a more liberal nominee.
“Harry Reid has tried every trick in the book to circumvent the American people and force a vote on Obama’s partisan nominee during an election year,” said Greg Blair, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “Not only have those efforts failed, but Democrats have now lost the support of Bernie Sanders, their party’s liberal standard bearer.”
McConnell has not always been a favorite of the conservative wing of his party, but his stand against holding hearings or a vote on the court vacancy has won the Kentucky Republican accolades on the right.
“Thank you to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley for holding the line against the appointment of a lame duck Supreme Court nominee,” the House Freedom Caucus said in a statement last month. The group’s members have been frequent critics of bipartisan deals cut by Boehner and McConnell.
The support from conservatives for delaying the confirmation battle until after President Barack Obama leaves office has come as Democrats are touting polls that show vulnerable Republicans facing difficult re-election races.
The Democratic poll conducted by Hart Research Associates found the Ohio Senate race was effectively tied, with Portman leading former Democratic governor, Ted Strickland, 47 percent to 45 percent.
“Ted Strickland’s low energy campaign and his liberal D.C. allies are willing to do or say anything to distract from Strickland’s awful record when Ohio lost more than 350,000 jobs and ranked 48th in job creation,” Portman’s campaign manager Corry Bliss said in a statement. “We look forward to comparing Rob’s record of getting results for Ohio with Ted Strickland’s disastrous record that makes him the worst Senate candidate in America.”
Blair from the NRSC said that Reid’s participation in the conference call about the poll was “just another public relations stunt aimed at upending the balance of the court before voters have a chance to speak.”
Portman held a courtesy meeting with Garland on Thursday, but stressed that he was still opposed to confirming an Obama nominee to the Supreme Court.