Senate leaders met with President Obama in the Oval Office office for what Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) called “a very short meeting” about the yet-unannounced Supreme Court nomination.
Outside of a closed policy luncheon, Reid told reporters that he, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Judiciary Ranking Member Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) met for about 40 minutes, where he said the GOPs “were adamant, even though it’s never happened in the history of the country, they’re going to do nothing.”
“This is pretty stunning. If they can meet with the president, shouldn’t they at least sit down and talk to the nominee, which the president said would be coming shortly?” Reid said. “They have a constitutional duty to consider the president’s nominations for the Supreme Court, they took an oath swearing they would uphold the Constitution, they raised their hands, swore to God that they would do that.”
“No meeting, no hearing, no vote. Pretty stunning. So maybe they’re going to wait and see what President Trump’s going to do, who he wants to nominate. Maybe that’s their wish.”
Of Trump, Reid noted that Senate Republicans are trying to distance themselves from the GOP frontrunner “all privately.”
“Let them say something publicly. They’re not — there are very, very few of them willing to do that because they’re afraid. They’re afraid that the Trump millions will stand up against the people who were in the — whispering in the offices and afraid to say anything public,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons that Trump is marching forward on Super Tuesday.”
At his own media availability, McConnell said about half of the meeting with Obama and Vice President Joe Biden was spent discussing the Supreme Court vacancy, with the balance of time largely focused on the national opioid epidemic.
“I made it clear that we don’t intend to take up a nominee or to have a hearing. And it was a good opportunity to reiterate our view that this appointment should be made by the next president,” McConnell said.
“You’ve heard all the talking points on both sides, but it is — does bear repeating that there hasn’t been a vacancy created in a presidential election year filled in 80 years. And you’d have to go back to 1888 when Grover Cleveland was in the White House to find the last time a vacancy created in a presidential year was confirmed by the party opposite the occupant of the White House,” he added.
“So this vacancy will not be filled this year. We will look forward to the American people deciding who they want to make this appointment through their own votes.”
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said he spoke with Obama after the meeting, and “the president’s view of this situation is that any president has a responsibility to consult intensively with Congress before making a nomination to a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court.”
Earnest said Obama also took suggestions, stressing that the president “did use the opportunity to lay out his thinking, and he gave everyone in the room, Democrats and Republicans, the opportunity to put forward their own suggestions for potential Supreme Court nominees.”
“The president didn’t guarantee that he would choose that person, but the president did indicate that he would take seriously any recommendations that either Democrats or Republicans had to put forward,” he added.