By Mary Clare Jalonick
and Josh Lederman
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama accused Senate Republicans on Wednesday of putting the U.S. Supreme Court’s credibility at risk if they make good on their vow not to consider or vote on his pick to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia. He promised to nominate a candidate anyway.
“I’m going to do my job,” Obama said.
Obama, weighing in during an Oval Office meeting, acknowledged that Republicans are under “enormous pressure from their base” to oppose his nominee. But he said if Republicans defy the Constitution by snubbing his nominee, the ability of any future president to pick judges will further erode.
“At that point, not only are you going to see more and more vacancies and the court system break down, but the credibility of the Court begins to diminish because it’s viewed simply as an extension of our politics,” Obama said after a meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah II.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said just a day earlier that his 54-member GOP caucus was united against taking any step in the Senate’s “advise and consent” process. The Judiciary Committee will not hold confirmation hearings for the nominee. The committee and the full Senate will not vote.
But Obama said that once Republicans are faced with an actual candidate they can examine, the situation would evolve and GOP opposition might soften. He said he hoped Judiciary Committee members would “recognize that it is their job to give this person a hearing” and then let their conscience dictate whether to approve or reject his nominee.
“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.”