WASHINGTON, D.C., February 24, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Senate Republicans say no Supreme Court nominees will get a hearing or a vote until a new president is elected.
The unexpected death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has raised the political stakes in 2016. Two abortion-related cases are being heard this year as well – one on the Obama administration's abortifacient and contraceptive mandate, and the other on Texas's admitting privileges law.
According to The Hill, a series of decisions last week by Senate Republicans to back opposition from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, to any nominees until after a new president takes office in 2017 is now official policy of the caucus.
“The overwhelming view of the Republican conference in the Senate is this vacancy should not be filled by this lame-duck president,” he told reporters.
“We believe the American people need to decide who is going to make this appointment rather than a lame-duck president,” Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn, R-TX, said after the Senate Judiciary Committee's Tuesday meeting. All 11 GOP members of that committee – which any nominee must go through to gain a vote by the full Senate – said they would not support a hearing.
“My decision is that I don't think we should have a hearing. We should let the next president pick the Supreme Court justice,” said South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who is on the committee.
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One exception to the GOP opposition to an Obama nominee – including vulnerable incumbents up for re-election such as Wisconsin's Ron Johnson and New Hampshire's Kelly Ayotte – could be Illinois's Mark Kirk. The most vulnerable Republican senator, he published an op-ed in which he said he “recognize[d] the right of the president, be it Republican or Democrat, to place before the Senate a nominee for the Supreme Court and I fully expect and look forward to President Barack Obama advancing a nominee for the Senate to consider.”
According to Kirk, “I also recognize my duty as a senator to either vote in support or opposition to that nominee following a fair and thorough hearing along with a complete and transparent release of all requested information. The Senate's role in providing advice and consent is as important and significant as the president's role in proposing a nominee.”
“A partisan or extreme nominee would not be prudent nor would it provide a steady, scholarly hand to guide the constitutional ship of state,” said the senator, who said his “sincerest hope is that President Obama nominates someone who captures the sentiment he spoke about before the Illinois General Assembly this month – a nominee who can bridge differences, a nominee who finds common ground and a nominee who does not speak or act in the extreme.”
While Kirk's comments have been characterized as a major break from McConnell and the rest of the GOP leadership and rank and file alike, Judicial Crisis Network Chief Counsel and Policy Director Carrie Severino told LifeSiteNews that “the real story here is the striking unanimity among Senate Republicans in their commitment to letting the people decide who will replace Justice Scalia and shape the future of the Court.”
Asked about Kirk's op-ed, Ethics & Public Policy Center president Ed Whelan succinctly emailed to LifeSiteNews: “Ignore him.”