Sen. John McCain promised Monday that Senate Republicans would be united against “any” potential Hillary Clinton Supreme Court nominee, though a spokeswoman later clarified that he would judge any nominee individually.
“I promise you we will, we will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put up,” the Arizona Republican said in a radio interview on The Dom Giordano Program in Philadelphia. “I promise you. This is why we need the majority.”
McCain’s comments raised questions about whether Republicans would consider any of Clinton’s nominees, if she is elected president over the GOP nominee, Donald Trump. McCain’s spokeswoman later clarified that the senator based his comments on Clinton’s past support of “liberal” nominees.
“Sen. McCain believes you can only judge people by their record and Hillary Clinton has a clear record of supporting liberal judicial nominees,” McCain spokeswoman Rachael Dean said in a statement. “That being said, Sen. McCain will, of course, thoroughly examine the record of any Supreme Court nominee put before the Senate and vote for or against that individual based on their qualifications as he has done throughout his career,” Dean said.
McCain is running for a sixth Senate term this election cycle against Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, whose campaign criticized the statement.
“John McCain’s staff can’t walk back McCain’s promise to obstruct any Supreme Court nominee not made by Donald Trump — he said what he meant, and meant what he said,” Kirkpatrick spokesman D.B. Mitchell said in a press release.
Mitchell pointed to McCain’s statement in a recent debate in Phoenix where he said he would prefer eight Supreme Court justices over an additional liberal justice.
“We only have eight Supreme Court justices and I would much rather have eight Supreme Court justices than a justice who is liberal in the keeping of the practice of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and the others who are liberal, and in my view, not in keeping with the Constitution,” McCain said last week. “This is what makes this election a very, very serious election.”
Republicans have blocked President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, from consideration this year. They have argued that the American people should determine the direction of the court through the presidential election, drawing ire from their Democratic colleagues.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has insisted the vacancy caused by Justice Antonin Scalia’s death would not be filled by Obama.
The Kentucky Republican said at a Sept. 29 press conference before the October break, “As I’ve said repeatedly, the next president will be filling that vacancy and we’ll have to see who that is.”
Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.