Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley was among a group of six senators who met with President Obama at the White House today to discuss the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court.
“When the president invites you down, not only respect for President Obama, but respect for the office of the presidency, you usually go,” Grassley said this morning.
But Grassley said 52 of the 54 Republicans in the senate want to refuse to consider whomever Obama nominates, so the next president can make the appointment.
“We have a very unique opportunity for the American people to make their voices heard,” Grassley told Iowa reporters during a telephone conference call held before the White House meeting.
Grassley is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and would normally preside over the public process of reviewing the president’s pick for the Supreme Court, but Grassley’s committee will not hold a hearing on the president’s nominee. Grassley calls that the “fair and reasonable approach” to the situation.
“We have a constitutional role which is to consent or not consent or even to withhold consent,” Grassley said. “We will perform our constitutional duty.”
Grassley and other Republicans say President Obama might be able to tilt the court to the left if he’s allowed to fill the vacancy created by last month’s death of Justice Scalia.
“This court is so well-balanced now with four conservatives and four liberals, one moderate, that this appointment’s going to make a big change in the direction of the Supreme Court if this president is going to appoint the kind of people that he has appointed already to the court,” Grassley said.
During Grassley’s 35 year career in the U.S. Senate, he has voted to confirm all but two nominees to the Supreme Court. Grassley’s “no” votes were against Obama nominees Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor who are now justices on the court.
The Democratic leader of the Senate today suggested Grassley and his Republican peers want to wait and see what President Trump will do to the court. Grassley issued a written statement this afternoon, saying a drawn-out senate fight over an Obama nominee to the supreme court would be “bad for the nominee, bad for the court, bad for the process, and ultimately bad for the nation.”
A coalition of progressive and liberal groups plans a “day of action” this Thursday to blast Grassley and seven other Republican senators who are up for re-election in 2016 for practicing “extremism”.
(This post was updated at 2:38 p.m. A previous version of this story indicated Grassley would not meet with the person Obama nominates to the Supreme Court. A spokeswoman for Grassley says the senator has not yet decided whether he will or won’t meet with the eventual nominee.)