Another Republican senator has signaled that he may not be totally on board with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s plan to not consider President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee to replace deceased Justice Antonin Scalia.
On Tuesday, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) said that the Senate “might” actually grant a hearing to President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, even though McConnell has pledged not to hold a vote. Johnson told radio host John Howell that while he probably wouldn’t vote yes on Obama’s nominee, he’s open to a vote either way.
Here’s the exchange:
JOHN HOWELL: I think that you should go through the process. If you don’t, I think the party winds up looking like obstructionists.
SEN. JOHNSON: Well, John, we might. I have no idea how the process plays out. Again, What I’ve heard Leader McConnell say — and maybe he said something else — is let’s, in the end, let the American people decide. So, if president Obama appoints a Justice Scalia clone, my guess is we confirm a Justice Scalia clone. That’s not gonna happen. We already know the type of justices he put on the court. And so I doubt a liberal activist justice judge would be confirmed by the Senate.
And if we choose to not to confirm, either by not acting or by voting that choice down, either way it’s an action. It’s not giving consent to his nominee. And again, the advice is, let the American people decide the direction of this country. I think it’s a very reasonable position.
HOWELL: I think you wind up looking as a party like petulant children if you don’t put it up for a vote.
JOHNSON: So put it up for a vote and vote an individual down. I don’t think there’s much of a difference one way or another.
Later, in another radio interview, Johnson said he “never said” that the Senate “shouldn’t vote” on Obama’s nominee.
“I’ve never said that I wouldn’t vote, or that we shouldn’t vote,” he said. ” I have no idea how the process plays out, I’m not in control of it. I’m not the majority leader, I’m not chairman of the Judiciary. By the time I would actually take the vote, if it comes to that, I’ll take a vote.”
Johnson is the latest Republican senator to suggest that his colleagues should at least consider an Obama-nominated replacement for Scalia, breaking with the hard-line position of McConnell. On Tuesday morning, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) warned that his colleagues should not automatically block any nominee, saying the party risks “[falling] into the trap of being obstructionists.” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, has not ruled out holding committee hearings on Obama’s pick. And Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has said he would “look at” a nominee put forward by Obama.
While most Senate Republicans have sided with McConnell’s decision not to hold any hearings, not everyone has been outwardly supportive. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), for example, recently said that all Supreme Court nominees deserve “in-depth consideration given the importance of their constitutional role and their lifetime tenure.”
“Our role in the Senate is to evaluate the nominee’s temperament, intellect, experience, integrity and respect for the Constitution and the rule of law,” Collins said.
Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) has also not directly weighed in on McConnell’s promise, though he recently said the “political debate erupting about prospective nominees” was “unseemly.”