Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), because of his determination to stop a lame-duck vote on a Supreme Court nominee, is worse than a segregationist who tried to stop the Civil Rights Act.
Republicans on the Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) today vowing to not hold hearings on a Supreme Court nominee until the next president is sworn in.
“We intend to exercise the constitutional power granted the Senate under Article II, Section 2 to ensure the American people are not deprived of the opportunity to engage in a full and robust debate over the type of jurist they wish to decide some of the most critical issues of our time,” the senators wrote. “Not since 1932 has the Senate confirmed in a presidential election year a Supreme Court nominee to a vacancy arising in that year.”
“And it is necessary to go even further back — to 1888 — in order to find an election year nominee who was nominated and confirmed under divided government, as we have now.”
In addition to Grassley, the pledge to block a Supreme Court nominee at the committee level was signed by Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), David Vitter (R-La.), David Perdue (R-Ga.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.).
Outside a closed policy luncheon on Capitol Hill today, Reid blamed McConnell for getting “every Republican member of the Judiciary Committee to say they won’t even hold a hearing.”
“Hard to comprehend, but it appears that Senator Grassley’s going to follow through on this plan. He will go down in history as the most obstructionist Judiciary chair in the history of our country. Now, that says a lot because we knew about the Judiciary Committee chairs during the Civil Rights Era,” Reid added.
In 1964, the Senate majority leader had to take maneuvers to keep the Civil Rights Act from landing in Senate Judiciary Chairman James Eastland’s committee, given the Mississippi Democrat’s fervent opposition to the landmark legislation.
“I can’t imagine. Senator Grassley — I’ve served with him in Congress for more than three decades. Is this the legacy that he wants? Is this the choice he’s making by following Senator McConnell down this path of Trump and Cruz?” Reid continued, adding soon after that “Ted Cruz and Donald Trump took over the Republican Party and now the Judiciary Committee itself.”
The minority leader charged that Republicans are “threatening to abandon the Senate’s responsibilities.”
“It’s what Donald Trump and Ted Cruz want. Remember, Trump said delay, delay, delay the Supreme court nominees. They’re doing that in a way that I’m sure Trump couldn’t imagine. They’ve taken that to a new — new height. It’s wrong and the American people, I really do believe, won’t stand for this,” Reid said. “…Republicans must take their duty seriously and reject the extreme approach of Trump and Cruz.”
Reid warned that McConnell “hasn’t seen the pressure that’s going to build — it’s going to build in all facets of the political constituency in the country.”
“The Republicans themselves are saying through their right-wing outlets that they would rather the Republicans lose the Senate than allow a vote on the nominee. So that says it all,” he said. “I think — I think it — let’s look at it this way. Doing something never done in the history of this country, never done in the history of this country, is not going to help them, let’s put it that way.”
Outside the Senate GOPs’ luncheon, McConnell told reporters that the “overwhelming view of the Republican Conference of the Senate is that this nomination should not be filled, this vacancy should not be filled by this lame-duck president.”
“That was the view of Joe Biden when he was chairman of the Judiciary Committee in 1992; Chuck Schumer who I assume will be my counterpart next year had the view that you shouldn’t fill a vacancy in the last 18 months going into a presidential election year. And certainly, that was Senator Reid’s view as well in a different era,” McConnell said.
Cornyn added that the Judiciary Committee’s stand is “not about the personality — it’s about the principle.”
“It’s up to the American people in this next election no matter who they choose to make the nomination for this important seat on the Supreme Court,” Cornyn said. “Justice Scalia served for 30 years, so this clearly extends far beyond President Obama’s term of office. It’s that important.”
McConnell said he would be “not inclined” to meet with Obama’s nominee, and Cornyn said he doesn’t “see the point of going through the motions if we know what the outcome is going to be… and creating a misleading impression that something else is going on here.”
“I have many faults, but getting off-message is not one of them,” McConnell said. “This nomination will be determined by whoever wins the presidency in the fall. I agree with the Judiciary Committee’s recommendation that we not have hearings. In short, there will not be action taken.”