GOP Senator Warns Against Party's 'Obstructionist' Supreme Court Strategy

Because refusing to let the president put anyone on the court doesn't look great.
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) says it's probably not a good idea to rule out every Supreme Court nominee that Obama puts forward.
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) says it's probably not a good idea to rule out every Supreme Court nominee that Obama puts forward.
Drew Angerer via Getty Images

WASHINGTON ― A Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee warned that his party risks looking “obstructionist” if they refuse to even consider a Supreme Court nominee from President Barack Obama.

“I think we fall into the trap, if we just simply say [no], sight unseen, we fall into the trap of being obstructionist,” Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) said in a radio interview Tuesday, first reported by ThinkProgress.

So far, that’s exactly what Republicans are doing.

“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Saturday, after news broke of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death. “Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President.”

Republicans did not have to take this route. After all, they have a majority in the Senate and could simply block an Obama nominee on the floor in an up-or-down vote.

Tillis said the GOP would be happy to consider a candidate who “has an almost identical resume and capabilities as Justice Scalia” ― a prospect that he admitted was unlikely.

“If he puts forth someone that we think is in the mold of President Obama’s vision of America, then we’ll use every device available to block that nomination, wait for the American people to voice their vote in November and then move forward with a nomination after the election ― and most likely with the next president,” he added.

Tillis’ remarks hardly count as an endorsement for Obama filling the court vacancy, but the fact that he isn’t flat-out rejecting the idea of Senate confirmation proceedings sets him apart from other Republicans. Nearly all have lined up behind McConnell in saying Obama should hold off and let the next president fill the Supreme Court seat. That would leave the nation’s highest court with an empty seat for at least a year, an unprecedented lag time.

This all may just be bluster from the GOP. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who chairs the judiciary committee, hasn’t ruled out a hearing for Obama’s forthcoming Supreme Court nominee.

“I would wait until the nominee is made before I would make any decisions,” Grassley told reporters in a Tuesday morning interview. “In other words, take it a step at a time.”

On the campaign trail, the GOP presidential candidates so far agree with McConnell’s approach ― obviously, they’d each like to be the next person in the White House who nominates someone to the court ― but Ben Carson conceded that if a Republican were in Obama’s shoes right now, they’d just go ahead and pick someone.

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