President Obama challenged obstinate Republican senators who said they wouldn’t even consider a Supreme Court nominee by insisting Wednesday he would choose someone in the weeks ahead — and blasted them for listening to the “most extreme voices” in their party.
“I recognize the politics are hard for them because the easier thing to do is to give in to the most extreme voices within their party and stand pat and do nothing. But that’s not our job. Our job is to fulfill our constitutional duties,” Obama said. “I’m going to do my job.”
He said it would be “difficult” for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to block any nominee without it looking like a blatant political gesture.
“If, in fact, the Republicans in the Senate take a posture that defies the Constitution, defies logic, is not supported by tradition simply because of politics, then invariably what you’re going to see is a further deterioration in the ability of any President to make any judicial appointments,” Obama said.
President Obama also outlined the qualities he was looking for in his nominee to the Supreme Court.
“Not only are you going to see more and more vacancies and the court system break down,” Obama predicted, “but the credibility of the (Supreme) Court begins to diminish because it’s viewed simply as an extension of our politics.”
But the President also said he anticipated the latest show of hardheadedness might actually soften once Republican lawmakers are faced with an actual candidate they can evaluate.
“I don’t expect any member of the Republican caucus to stick their head out at the moment and say that,” Obama said. “But let’s see how the public responds to the nominee that we put forward.”
Many insiders think Obama will select a well-regarded, centrist candidate that Republicans would be hard-pressed to oppose, then build political pressure on the GOP for standing in the way.
In a possible preview of that strategy, the White House has reportedly begun vetting Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, a moderate Republican, for the Supreme Court seat vacated by the death of Antonin Scalia.
Within hours of Scalia’s death, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) vowed to reject an Obama nominee to the court. And on Tuesday, he said he wouldn’t even meet with an Obama selection.
Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton, whose candidacy was endorsed Wednesday by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), called Republicans’ intent to block any nominee “shameful and indefensible.”
“It’s time for the Senate to put statesmanship over partisanship, and live up to our constitutional principles,” she said.
Scalia, 79, died unexpectedly on Feb. 13 of natural causes, immediately sparking a battle between the White House and Republicans over replacing him.
Earlier Wednesday, Obama, in a post to SCOTUSblog, pointed to the Constitution as a tool that “vests in the President the power to appoint judges to the Supreme Court,” another warning to the group of 11 cantankerous Senate Republicans who a day earlier pledged to not hold hearings for any potential nominee.
“It’s a duty that I take seriously, and one that I will fulfill in the weeks ahead,” Obama wrote.
In addition, Obama outlined the qualities he wanted in the jurist — revealing his most detailed insights yet into what he was looking for in his pick for the nation’s highest court.
The Daily News’ front page on Feb. 24, 2016 drew attention to the unprecedented move by Senate Republicans.
“First and foremost, the person I appoint will be eminently qualified,” Obama wrote. “He or she will have an independent mind, rigorous intellect, impeccable credentials, and a record of excellence and integrity. …
The person I appoint will be someone who recognizes the limits of the judiciary’s role; who understands that a judge’s job is to interpret the law, not make the law.”
The President also suggested he was looking for a judge with “the kind of life experience earned outside the classroom and the courtroom” that could help in making decisions that grasp the way the rulings affect “the daily reality of people’s lives in a big, complicated democracy, and in rapidly changing times.”
With News Wire Services