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Obama, Democrats Pledge to Defy Republicans on Court Vacancy

From left, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., talk to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington about Senate Republicans' refusal to act on any Supreme Court nomination.

One day after Senate Republicans slammed the door on confirming a Supreme Court nominee this year, President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats pledged to continue working to fill the vacancy created by the recent death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

“The Constitution says that I nominate candidates for the Supreme Court when there’s a vacancy, and the Senate exercises its constitutional authority to advise and consent. I’m going to do my job,” Obama said.

“We just keep pushing it, and I think the public’s on our side,” Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota said when asked about her party’s strategy to force Republicans, who control the chamber, to alter their stance.

FILE - Senator Amy Klobuchar.
FILE - Senator Amy Klobuchar.

Klobuchar sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, tasked with holding confirmation hearings on federal court nominees. On Tuesday, the committee’s entire Republican membership said there would be no hearings and no consideration whatsoever of any Supreme Court nominee Obama put forward.

A day later, those committee members vowed to hold firm.

“A majority in this Senate is not going to move a nominee this year,” said Republican Jeff Sessions of Alabama. “It’s not going to happen.”

“The Senate has every right not to have a hearing, and we shouldn’t go through some motions [of considering a nominee],” said Senator John Cornyn of Texas, also a Republican Judiciary Committee member. “This nominee will not be confirmed.”

'Their job' is to review

Obama said he aimed to convince them otherwise.

“My hope and expectation is that once there is an actual nominee, once this is no longer a hypothetical, that those on the Judiciary Committee recognize that their job is to give this person a review, to show the courtesy of meeting with them,” the president said.

Democrats on the Judiciary Committee echoed that message.

“My hope remains that the president will nominate someone who is so obviously qualified and so eminently confirmable that it will cause them [Republicans] to reconsider,” Senator Chris Coons of Delaware told VOA.

FILE - Senator Lindsey Graham.
FILE - Senator Lindsey Graham.

Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina scoffed at the suggestion, saying it mattered “not one lick” who Obama nominated.

“He could nominate me and I wouldn’t vote for me,” Graham added.

For now, Democrats are declining to say what they are prepared to do in the event of a yearlong Republican blockade of a Supreme Court nominee. When asked by reporters, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, responded with a question of his own.

“You mean force senators to actually follow their oath of office and uphold the Constitution?” Leahy said. “Gosh. You know, if someone has taken a solemn oath to uphold the Constitution, you would think they would have a sense of morality and do it.”

Others are counseling patience.

“Look, let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” Coons said. “The president hasn’t yet offered a nominee."

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