McConnell: SCOTUS Vacancy 'Will Not Be Filled This Year'

By Susan Jones | March 2, 2016 | 5:03am EST
President Barack Obama meets with Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Senate Minority Leader Sen. Harry Reid of Nev., Vice President Joe Biden, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, in the Oval Office of the White House on Tuesday, March 1, 2016, to discuss the vacancy on the Supreme Court. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

( - The Supreme Court vacancy "will not be filled this year," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday, following an hour long meeting with President Obama at the White House.

"We're perfectly prepared to take our argument to the American people," McConnell told a news conference.

"And I would tell you, if the shoe were on the other foot, do any of you think the Democrat majority in the Senate would be confirming a Republican president's nomination in the last year of his term? Of course not.

"This is going to be decided by the American people and the next president, whoever that may be, will fill this vacancy."

McConnell met at the White House with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who chairs the Judiciary Committee. Democrat leaders Harry Reid and Pat Leahy also attended.

"We met for an hour," McConnell said. "We spent roughly half of the time discussing the Supreme Court. Senator Grassley and 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 noted that it's been 80 years since a Supreme Court vacancy has been filled in a presidential election year.

"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."

At a news conference of his own, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the Republican refusal to hold a hearing "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? 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 -- maybe that's their wish."

McConnell said the rest of the meeting at the White House was spent in what he considers a "constructive discussion" about an opioid addictio bill. "We also had a constructive conversation about the criminal justice reform bill that Senator Cornyn has been in the lead on. And we also talked about the way forward on Puerto Rico (debt crisis).

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