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Republicans Begin to Back Away From Stonewalling SCOTUS Nominee

Image: Republicans Begin to Back Away From Stonewalling SCOTUS Nominee
Sen. Orrin Hatch (Getty Images) 

By    |   Wednesday, 17 Feb 2016 09:18 PM

Some Republican insiders are distancing themselves from the unyielding stance taken by GOP leaders who refuse to consider any nominee President Barack Obama may offer up to fill the seat of the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia.

While no prominent Republicans are suggesting they would vote to approve an Obama nominee, they are questioning Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's apparent tactic of preemptively refusing to hold confirmation hearings.

Shortly after the news of Scalia's death broke, McConnell stated: "The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president."

The viability of that stance in an election year is now coming under question.

Bradley A. Blakeman, a Republican strategist and senior staffer to former President George W. Bush, told Newsmax Wednesday evening: "What I'm hearing is, all the sudden, the backtracking on this line in the sand that whoever the president puts up is dead on arrival. They've come way off that," he said, adding: "That was a huge mistake, because you never ask someone to do what you wouldn't do yourself."

If the roles were reversed, he said, Republicans would insist that a nominee put forth by a Republican president in their final year in office should get the constitutionally mandated review.

Since McConnell's statement, several Republican senators have stepped forward to support the preemptive rejection of any Obama nominee.

But on Tuesday, Iowa GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, left open the possibility that hearings would be held on an Obama nominee.

On Wednesday, Utah GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch said on Newsmax TV that while Grassley is free to hold hearings if he wants, doing so would be "foolish."

Said Hatch: "The decision has been pretty well made that in order to protect the integrity of the court during this very, very political time and such a big political brouhaha … let's put it off until next year.

"Then whoever is president," he added, "whether it's Democrat or a Republican, will have a right to nominate whoever they want."

On Wednesday, Nevada GOP Sen. Dean Heller issued a statement urging Obama to "use this opportunity to put the will of the people ahead of advancing a liberal agenda on the nation's highest court."

By encouraging Obama to nominate a justice who might be acceptable to Senate Republicans, Heller appeared to be distancing himself from McConnell's hardline stance against any consideration.

Blakeman said the growing consensus is that it would be difficult for the Senate to refuse to fulfill its constitutionally mandated "advise and consent" role, especially given Scalia's status as a strict constructionist.

"Do what the Constitution requires you to do," said Blakeman. "The president is required to put up a nominee. The Senate is required to advise and consent. So that's what you do."

Blakeman did not suggest an Obama nomination would be likely to pass muster in the waning months of his presidency, but rather that attempting to ignore or summarily reject it would be counterproductive.

"This is exactly what the American people are sick and tired of," he said. "This petty politics that, ‘You did this to me 10 years ago, so I'm doing it to you now.' …They're fed up to their eyeballs with entrenched politics, and that goes for both sides of the aisle."

Democrats have already signaled their rhetorical line of attack against a GOP refusal to hold confirmation hearings. They are positioning it as an echo of the unpopular 2013 government shutdown over funding that caused 800,000 federal workers to be furloughed.

One commentator, The Hill's Brent Budowsky, even characterized McConnell's proposal as "a government shutdown of the U.S. Supreme Court."

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is predicting the political pressure in an election year will force Republicans "to back off this extreme, partisan stance."

Schumer in recent days has tried to clarify his 2007 statement advocating a blanket opposition to confirmation of any George W. Bush appointee to the High Court.

On Wednesday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest addressed Obama's attempted 2006 filibuster of the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.

"This is an approach the president regrets," said Earnest.

He added then-Sen. Obama and his fellow Democrats should have instead made "a public case" against the nomination.

"They shouldn't have looked for a way to just throw sand in the gears of the process," Earnest said.

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Some Republican insiders are distancing themselves from the unyielding stance taken by GOP leaders who refuse to consider any nominee President Barack Obama may offer up to fill the seat of the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia.
republicans, back, away, stonewall, barack obama, supreme, court, nominee
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2016-18-17
Wednesday, 17 Feb 2016 09:18 PM
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