If Senate Republicans don't proceed with hearings on President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, Senate Democrats would be "justified" in continuously holding off the confirmation of a Republican-nominated justice, White House press secretary Josh Earnest asserted Thursday.
"They are setting up a scenario that could hamstring Republican presidents in the future," Earnest said.
Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, left, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, hosts a meeting with Judge Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s choice to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, on Capitol Hill. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other Republicans have said voters should have a say in the next Supreme Court justice that will determine the balance of the high court following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Still, Obama nominated Garland, the chief judge on the Washington, D.C., Court of Appeals, to fill the vacancy.
"The president said if Republicans follow through on this threat to refuse to do their job, to refuse to consider Chief Judge Garland’s nomination, even though they describe him as a consensus nominee, what’s to stop Democrats who are in charge of the Senate when a Republican is in office from saying, ‘We’re just going to wait four years for a vacancy’?" Earnest said. "There is no material difference in that argument. That would represent a breakdown of the process."
A reporter asked Earnest if Senate Democrats would hold up a Republican president's Supreme Court nominee for four years.
"They would be justified in doing it based on what Republicans have done so far," Earnest responded. "Hopefully it won’t come to that. Hopefully Republicans will do what every Senate has done since 1875, which is give a hearing or a vote to every Supreme Court nominee that has been put forward to fill a vacancy."
Earnest said he predicts Garland will eventually be confirmed, citing the fact that some Republican senators are at least meeting with the nominee as progress, since Republicans were initially opposed to even a meeting.