Mitch McConnell Cites ‘Constitutional Right' to Deny Obama on Supreme Court Nominee

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D.C. District Chief Judge Merrick Garland’s journey to becoming the next Supreme Court Justice quickly hit a brick wall in the form of Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“It is a president’s constitutional right to nominate a Supreme Court justice and it is the Senate’s constitutional right to act as a check on a president and withhold its consent,” McConnell said on the Senate floor, minutes after President Obama officially announced Garland's nomination.

Since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia just over a month ago, McConnell, who spoke with the president on the phone before his Rose Garden announcement Tuesday, has remained steadfast in his pledge not to hold a vote on a replacement until after Obama’s White House successor has taken office.

McConnell spoke by phone with Garland Wednesday afternoon, reiterating that he opposes holding a hearing on his confirmation and telling him that he will not hold a meeting with him, although he "wished Judge Garland well," according to a statement.

Most of his fellow Senate Republicans have followed suit, including Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley, who has said his panel will not hold a confirmation hearing for any Obama nominee.

“Today the President has exercised his constitutional authority. A majority of the Senate has decided to fulfill its constitutional role of advice and consent by withholding support for the nomination during a presidential election year, with millions of votes having been cast in highly charged contests,” Grassley said in a statement Tuesday.

Only one Senate Republican reacted to Obama’s announcement by saying he would consider Garland’s nomination on his merits. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), up for re-election this year, said he would assess Garland “based on his record and qualifications."

Despite the vast majority of Senate Republicans holding fast to their refusal to consider Garland, the White House noted that seven of them who still serve in Congress voted for Garland’s nomination to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in 1997.

Despite their previous support for him, however, several of those senators said Tuesday that they would not vote for him then.

“He may very well be a very good nominee. I voted for him earlier. But this is not about the nominee. It’s about the process,” Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), one of the seven, said.