No Supreme Court hearings, no votes, not during regular business or a postelection lame-duck session, the Senate's majority leader made clear Sunday.
Sen. Mitch McConnell signaled no retreat or surrender from his firm stand to keep the court short-handed through at least January, scuttling the suggestion from at least one GOP colleague worried that a new Democrat in the White House — Hillary Clinton is the party's front-runner — might nominate someone more liberal than President Barack Obama's pick, federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland.
"It'd be hard to be more liberal than Merrick Garland, but it's my hope that she will not be making the appointment," McConnell told Chuck Todd on NBC's "Meet the Press," adding "We're not going to be confirming a judge to the Supreme Court under this president."
Garland, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, won Republican votes for his current seat and is seen as a centrist whose nomination to the nine-member Supreme Court could box in Obama's opponents, shaken by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative bulwark.
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McConnell, R-Ky., hasn't budged from his insistence, beginning just hours after Scalia's death last month, that the Senate would not confirm an Obama nominee in an election year, let alone hold hearings. He even ruled out meeting the president's pick, a standard courtesy.
Democrats are using the issue against vulnerable Republicans facing re-election, hoping for leverage to retake the Senate after the November vote.
So far, though, just one GOP senator, Mark Kirk of Illinois, has broken with his party leaders and called for a vote on Garland. A growing number of Republicans are willing to meet with Garland, including Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona. He floated the idea of considering the Garland's nomination in the postelection session because "between him and somebody that a President Clinton might nominate, I think the choice is clear."
But McConnell gave no ground to that argument, telling CNN's Dana Bash on "State of Union" Sunday that opposition to Garland's nomination from the National Rifle Association and the National Federation of Independent Businesses shows he's too liberal.
"I can't imagine that a Republican majority Congress, in a lame duck session after the American people have spoken, would want to confirm a nominee opposed by the NRA, the NFIB, and the New York Times says would move the court dramatically to the left," McConnell said. "This nomination ought to be made by the next president."
Minority Leader Harry Reid, meanwhile, expressed doubt that McConnell would not be able to keep Garland from getting considered, adding that "his Republican senators are not going to go over that cliff with him. "
"In addition to the people agreeing to meet, we have Republican senators and a veteran senator who said, 'Well maybe what we should do is do it in a lame duck.' Orrin Hatch, Lindsey Graham, others have said that. But if they're going to do it in lame duck, do it now," Reid proclaimed.