Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, insisted on Wednesday that he doesn’t plan on having a confirmation hearing for Merrick Garland during Congress’ lame-duck session if Hillary Clinton wins the presidency.
During a question-and-answer session at the Sioux City Rotary Club on Monday, Grassley said he was personally opposed to having hearings if Clinton won the election, but added that he wouldn’t get in the way if a majority of senators disagreed with him. The comment marked a shift for Grassley, who said unequivocally in May that the next president should fill the Supreme Court seat left empty by Justice Antonin Scalia and refused to have a hearing for President Barack Obama’s nominee.
On Wednesday, Grassley ― who is seeking re-election ― said he had been misunderstood.
“Everybody who heard me say that I said got the wrong opinion. People ask me to speculate, maybe I shouldn’t be speculating, and that’s all it was,” he told reporters in Dubuque, Iowa.
“My position is exactly the same as it was when I wrote the letter signed by 10 other members of the judiciary committee to other senators that it’s advised by the principle of the 30-year understanding, that if you have a vacancy in the last year, the people are going to have a voice,” he continued. “So my position is, it’s going to be decided by whoever is elected president.”
Grassley’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) have said they would be open to lame-duck confirmation hearings if Clinton wins the presidential election. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said that won’t happen.
“The Leader has been clear, the next President will make this nomination,” Don Stewart, a McConnell spokesman, said in an email on Tuesday.
In July, Garland officially made history by becoming the Supreme Court nominee who had gone the longest without a hearing.