President Obama said that despite the vow of Senate GOPs to not give a Supreme Court nominee a hearing, he’s going to pick “an outstanding candidate that has impeccable legal credentials and would bring the kind of ability and compassion and objectivity and legal reasoning to the Court that the Highest Court in the Land demands.”
Obama’s comments, while appearing with visiting King Abdullah II at the White House today, came just before news was leaked to CNN by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that a moderate Republican was being vetted for the vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
That is Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, a former federal judge appointed by George W. Bush and former attorney general who once led the state’s gaming commission. During his 2010 campaign, Sandoval called himself pro-choice: “I oppose partial-birth abortion, late term abortion and federal funding for abortion,” said his campaign website. “I support parental notification prior to a minor receiving an abortion and am against transporting minors across state lines for abortions.”
Obama said he recognizes “the politics are hard” for the Senate, “because the easier thing to do is to give in to the most extreme voices within their party and stand pat and do nothing.”
“My hope and expectation is that once there is an actual nominee and once this is no longer an abstraction, that those on the Judiciary Committee recognize that their job is to give this person a hearing, to show the courtesy of meeting with them,” the president said. “They are then free to vote whatever their conscience dictates as to whether this person is qualified or not. In the meantime, the American people are going to have the ability to gauge whether the person I’ve nominated is well within the mainstream, is a good jurist, is somebody who’s worthy to sit on the Supreme Court.”
All Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee pledged in a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday that they would not give any nominee a hearing.
Obama opined that it would be “very difficult for Mr. McConnell to explain how, if the public concludes that this person is very well qualified, that the Senate should stand in the way simply for political reasons.”
“There’s an argument that, well, the president shouldn’t do this because he is a lame duck. Well, the truth of the matter is, is that traditionally the term ‘lame duck’ refers to the two or three months after an election has taken place in which a new president is about to be sworn in,” Obama continued. “I’ve got a year to go. I don’t think they would approve of me abdicating on my duties as commander in chief and to stop doing all the other work that I got to do. Well, this is part of my job.”
On past comments from Democrats including Chuck Schumer and Joe Biden not wanting to consider nominations near the end of a GOP leader’s term, “we know senators say stuff all the time,” Obama brushed off.
“These were comments that were made where there was no actual nomination at stake,” he added. “So it has no application to the actual situation that we have right now.”
The president furthermore warned that Republicans’ stance could cause “more vacancies” as well as a breakdown of the court systems as “the credibility of the court itself begins to diminish because it’s viewed simply as an extension of our politics.”
“So I understand the posture that they’re taking right now. I get the politics of it. I’m sure they’re under enormous pressure from their base and their constituencies around this issue. I’ve talked to many of them, and I’ve told them I’m sympathetic,” Obama said. “And, by the way, there’s not a lot of vigor when they defend the position that they’re taking, that they wouldn’t even meet, for example, with a Supreme Court nominee. They’re pretty sheepish about it when they make those comments.”