Republican Senator Chuck Grassley isn’t ready to say whether he’ll convene a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on President Obama’s nominee to fill the opening on the U.S. Supreme Court.
“I would wait until the nominee is made before I would make any decisions,” Grassley told reporters this morning. “In other words, take it a step at a time.”
Justice Antonin Scalia died Saturday and President Obama has said he will nominate a replacement so the Senate can conduct a “fair hearing” and hold a “timely vote.” Grassley and other Republicans are making it clear they do not plan to place Obama’s pick on the court.
“This is a very serious position to fill and it should be filled and debated during the campaign and filled by either Hillary Clinton, Senator Sanders or whoever’s nominated by the Republicans,” Grassley said.
Grassley has a key role in this unfolding drama. He is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the panel that holds high-profile hearings for Supreme Court nominees. In 2008 — near the end of George W. Bush’s eight year run as president — Grassley criticized Democrats for suggesting the next president should fill a vacancy on the nation’s highest court.
“The reality is that the senate has never stopped confirming judicial nominees during the last few months of a president’s term,” Grassley said in 2008.
Grassley today said he is now embracing the “same spirit” advanced by a key Democrat eight years ago.
“Senator Schumer talked about balance and we had balance: four conservatives, four liberals and one moderate and maintaining the balance for the supreme court is just important now it was in 2007,” Grassley says.
New York Senator Chuck Schumer said in 2007 that Democrats should not confirm any Bush nominee to the Supreme Court unless they “prove by actions not words that they are in the mainstream.” There were no Supreme Court openings in 2008. The last election-year vote in the senate came in 1988. President Reagan nominated Anthony Kennedy in November of 1987 and he was confirmed in February of that election year.
Grassley is seeking reelection in 2016 and he was asked this morning if this supreme court fight might impact his race.
“I think that I have a responsibility to perform and I can’t worry about the election,” Grassley said. “I’ve got to do my job as a senator, whatever it is, and there will be a lot of tough votes between now and whenever, between now and the next election. There’s going to be a lot of tough votes, so that isn’t a consideration.”
AUDIO of Grassley’s conference call with Iowa radio reporters, 5:43 (question about Judiciary Committee hearing on Obama Supreme Court nominee at 2 minute mark)
A group called “Why Courts Matter” has accused Grassley of pursuing a “dangerous plan to obstruct justice” and “playing politics” with the justice system.