Meanwhile in Washington, Senate Republicans are again saying that they will refuse to even consider any Obama nominee to replace Scalia.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told Obama what he’s been telling reporters and constituents: that the next occupant of the Oval Office should be the one to fill the court vacancy.“I told the president what I’ve been saying for close to two weeks now,” McConnell said.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) also attended the meeting, as did Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Judiciary Committee ranking member Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Vice President Biden, who helmed the Judiciary panel during his Senate career.
The meeting was brief, providing another sign that neither side is backing down in the partisan battle over replacing the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
“We killed a lot of time talking about basketball,” Reid said.
The White House and Senate Democrats have ratcheted up the pressure on Grassley in recent days in hopes that he might be shamed into holding hearings. The Iowa senator controls the committee that oversees Supreme Court nominations.
But Grassley indicated he’s not going to budge. Instead, he offered a constitutional defense of the Senate’s decision to postpone the matter until 2017.
“I said this is more basic than just the stuff we’ve been talking about. You have a certain view of the role of government. We have a different view of the role of government,” Grassley said, paraphrasing the conversation.
Grassley argued that Obama’s aggressive use of executive authority makes it virtually impossible for Republicans to put another one of the president’s nominees on the court, likely tipping its ideological balance.
“You believe you’ve got a pen and a phone and you can do certain things Congress won’t, and you’re looking for the court to back you up, and we just don’t agree with that,” he said.
Reid had a blunter take.
Obama has won time and again against these clods, so we'll see what happens after we can put a face to the nominee and a story behind them.
“They were adamant. They said, ‘No, we’re not going to do this at all,’ ” Reid told reporters on the West Wing driveway.