Article II of the United States Constitution gives the president — in this case, Barack Obama — the clear power and responsibility to appoint “judges of the Supreme Court” with the “advice and consent of the Senate.”
But shortly after the news broke last week that Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the Court’s most outspoken conservatives, had died, Republican senators immediately made it known they would oppose any nominee President Obama sent their way and, what’s more, that they believe the seat should remain vacant until the next president takes office. While all 46 Senate Democrats and independents have called for Obama to nominate a replacement for Scalia, 47 of the 54 Senate Republicans stand in opposition to any Obama appointment at all, while 6 expressed some willingness to consider an Obama nominee and 1 has not said anything on the matter.
All 11 Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee have vowed to block any confirmation hearing for an Obama nominee and the party’s top leaders have embraced the strategy.
Here is a rundown of where they stand on whether there is any chance they might support confirming an Obama nominee. This list will be regularly updated.
Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Judiciary Committee member: “It is our responsibility to the American people and our Constitutional heritage to ensure that Justice Scalia’s legacy on the Court is carried on, ” Sessions said in a statement. To do this, he told Fox News, the Senate should not confirm anyone for the rest of Obama’s term: “I think the Senate will work its will and I don’t think the Senate is prepared to move a nominee at this late date and the appropriate thing is to allow the next president to make this appointment. I’m sure that’s what will happen.”
Richard Shelby (R-AL): “This great loss brings on a great responsibility for the United States Senate. Justice Scalia’s replacement should be considered carefully and thoughtfully because it is vital to our nation’s future that we confirm a justice who will continue his legacy. I will adamantly oppose any attempt by President Obama to fill this vacancy during the remainder of his term,” Shelby said in a statement.
Lisa Murkowski (R-AK): “Given the timing of this vacancy, in the middle of an election, the American people will be weighing in on the direction of SCOTUS. I urge Pres. Obama to follow a tradition embraced by both parties and allow his successor to select the next Supreme Court justice,” Murkowski tweeted on Thursday, adding that if Obama ignores that precedent, “I believe extraordinary circumstances give the Senate every right to deny the nominee an up or down vote.” Earlier, she had told local reporters, “I do believe that the nominee should get a hearing. The question then becomes, we have a hearing on a nominee. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that that ends up in a vote.”
Dan Sullivan (R-AK): Sullivan said Monday that he backed his GOP colleagues on the judiciary committee in their decision to refuse a hearing for any Obama nominee at all.
John McCain (R-AZ): “I believe that we should wait until after the next election and let the American people pick the next president and we should consider who the next president of the United States nominates,” McCain said in a radio interview.
Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Judiciary Committee member: “One would have to go back more than a century to find a scenario where a president’s nominee for the Supreme Court was confirmed by the opposition party in the Senate when a vacancy occurred during an election year. I’m not about to break new ground in the Senate, particularly when any nominee could so drastically shift the balance of the court,” Flake announced Monday.
John Boozman (R-AR): “After carefully considering the constituent feedback I have received it is clear that Arkansans overwhelmingly want a say in choosing Justice Scalia’s replacement through the presidential election. Arkansans want the Senate to wait until the next President is sworn in and I intend to adhere to their wishes. The fact of the matter is that it has been eighty years since a candidate nominated in an election year has been confirmed. Now is not the proper time to break this precedent,” Boozman said in a statement on Wednesday.
Tom Cotton (R-AR): “The choice of Justice Scalia’s successor should not belong to a lame-duck president, whose mandate is stale, and whose disregard for the constitutional constraints on his office are well known. The choice should belong to the American people. Voters deserve the chance to factor in the future of the Court as they cast their ballots in November. They deserve a say on a lifetime appointment that may change the balance of the Court and dramatically alter the direction of the nation,” Cotton said in a statement.
Cory Gardner (R-CO): “Our country is at a crossroads, and whomever the Senate confirms to occupy the vacancy will have a significant impact on the direction of our country for years to come,” Gardner said in a statement. “I join Leader McConnell and several of my colleagues in allowing for the American people to play a role in the selection process when they cast their ballots in November,” he added.
Marco Rubio (R-FL): “The next president must nominate a justice who will continue Justice Scalia’s unwavering belief in the founding principles that we hold dear,” Rubio said in his initial statement. In a series of interviews on Sunday, he reiterated this position, telling ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, “In the last year of a president’s term, in his second term especially, there should not be Supreme Court nominees put into lifetime positions for a president that you’re not going to hold accountable at the ballot box.” Rubio, who hopes to be the next president, falsely claimed in Sunday’s GOP debate that, “it’s been over 80 years since a lame-duck president has appointed a Supreme Court justice.”
Johnny Isakson (R-GA): “My personal feelings are we’re eight months away from an election in November and 10 months away from swearing in a new president of the United States. The American people are going to the polls to vote in November to pick the next president and I think the next president ought to be the one to fill that vacancy and not the president who’s going out,” Isakson said in an interview. “No risk of judgment when you’re talking about the Supreme Court is worth what it could do to the country by acting too fast at the wrong time,” he added.
David Perdue (R-GA), Judiciary Committee member: “I will do everything in my power to encourage the President and Senate leadership not to start this process until we hear from the American people. Given our global security crisis and debt crisis, the upcoming election will not only determine the direction of our country, but also serve as a referendum on the Presidency and Congress, and now the Supreme Court. President Obama’s record of ruling through executive action and regulatory mandates has shown he is willing to circumvent Congress and bypass the will of the people. We cannot allow the President to continue to use the judicial system to achieve his liberal agenda,” Perdue said in a statement.
Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Judiciary Committee chairman: “It only makes sense that we defer to the American people who will elect a new president to select the next Supreme Court Justice,” Grassley said in a statement. In an interview on Tuesday, however, he indicated that he might grant a hearing to an Obama nominee, telling reporters, “I would wait until the nominee is made before I would make any decisions. In other words, take it a step at a time.” Still, he opined, the seat is “a very serious position to fill and it should be filled and debated during the campaign and filled by either Hillary Clinton, Senator Sanders or whoever’s nominated by the Republicans.”
Joni Ernst (R-IA): “There’s no constitutional obligation to do so,” Ernst told a local newspaper on Wednesday, explaining her opposition to even granting a hearing to any Obama nominee.
Mike Crapo (R-ID): “No matter who our nominee becomes, we must ensure the winner will pick the right Supreme Court justice,” Crapo told activists on Saturday, adding, “All three branches of the federal government are on the line in this election.”
Dan Coats (R-IN): “I think that ought to be put to the American people and let them decide who they want to be their president and who they want to nominate,” Coats said in an interview. He is not seeking re-election and will not be in the Senate during the next president’s term, but suggested that “at that point, that person has to be evaluated in a non-partisan way, in my opinion. Does he have the experience? Does he or she have the criteria to be a justice? The temperament?”
Pat Roberts (R-KS): “I do not support rushing through a nominee before Americans have an opportunity to vote in November. Our next president should have a role in selecting the next Supreme Court justice,” Roberts told a local newspaper.
Mitch McConnell (R-KY): “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President,” the Senate Majority Leader said in a statement.
David Vitter (R-LA), Judiciary Committee member: “Rather than an insider’s political tug-of-war between Pres. & Sen. over a #SCOTUS nom, the American people should decide through election,” Vitter, who is not seeking re-election and will not be in the Senate during the next president’s term, tweeted. In a second tweet, he added, “I’ll do everything I can — including through my role on Judiciary Cmte & a no vote on cloture if necessary — to leave it to American people”
Bill Cassidy (R-LA): “Senate Democrats like Sen. Chuck Schumer say its [sic] ‘obstructionism’ for wanting the next president to make a Supreme Court nomination to replace Justice Scalia. But in 2007 Schumer said, ‘I will do everything in my power to prevent one more ideological ally from joining Roberts and Alito,’ and recommended the Senate, ‘should not confirm any Bush nominee to the Supreme Court except in extraordinary circumstances,’” Cassidy wrote on his Facebook page, attacking critics of his party’s plans to stymie a nomination.
Roy Blunt (R-MO): “Americans will be voting in just a few months, and that election should help determine the next member of the Supreme Court. The Senate should not confirm a new Supreme Court justice until we have a new president,” Blunt said in a statement to a local paper.
Thad Cochran (R-MS): “There is significant precedent for holding a Supreme Court vacancy open through the end of a president’s term in an election year. This is a good policy that has served the nation well and should continue to guide us. I think it is appropriate that the next president be accountable for this nomination,” Cochran said in a statement.
Roger Wicker (R-MS): “This decision is too important and too consequential to let this current President make the decision in an election year. The next President should choose Justice Scalia’s replacement, and American voters should have an opportunity to speak on this issue,” Wicker said in a statement.
Steve Daines (R-MT): “The best way to ensure this process remains nonpartisan would be waiting until after the election, before a nomination is made,” Daines told a local TV station, through a spokeswoman.
Deb Fischer (R-NE): “It’s not about the person,” Fischer told CNN on Wednesday, explaining her unwillingness to consider any Obama nominee. Claiming that Democrats had supported obstruction in the past, she observed, “For politicians to say one thing at one time and change it another — not going to work,”
Richard Burr (R-NC): “In this election year, the American people will have an opportunity to have their say in the future direction of our country. For this reason, I believe the vacancy left open by Justice Scalia should not be filled until there is a new President,” Burr said in a statement.
Thom Tillis (R-NC), Judiciary Committee member: Tillis signed a letter Tuesday, along with all Judiciary Committee Republicans vowing to “withhold consent to any nominee to the Supreme Court submitted by this President to fill Justice Scalia’s vacancy,” and to “not hold hearings on any Supreme Court nominee until after our next President is sworn in on January 20, 2017.” He had earlier warned , that “we fall into the trap if just simply say sight unseen, we fall into the trap of being obstructionists.”
John Hoeven (R-ND): “There is 80 years of precedent for not nominating and confirming a new justice of the Supreme Court in the final year of a president’s term so that people can have a say in this very important decision. Further, the people should have a say because the Supreme Court will be ruling on many important issues for our state and nation, including challenges to costly new energy regulations,” Hoeven said in a statement.
Kelly Ayotte (R-NH): “We’re in the midst of a consequential presidential election year, and Americans deserve an opportunity to weigh in given the significant implications this nomination could have for the Supreme Court and our country for decades to come. I believe the Senate should not move forward with the confirmation process until the American people have spoken by electing a new president,” Ayotte said in a statement.
Rob Portman (R-OH): “We are in the midst of a presidential election and a vigorous debate within both political parties on the direction of the country, with the election less than nine months away. I believe the best thing for the country is to trust the American people to weigh in on who should make a lifetime appointment that could reshape the Supreme Court for generations. This wouldn’t be unusual. It is common practice for the Senate to stop acting on lifetime appointments during the last year of a presidential term, and it’s been nearly 80 years since any president was permitted to immediately fill a vacancy that arose in a presidential election year,” Portman said in a statement.
James Lankford (R-OK): “At the end of the day, my best bet is that the Senate will vote,” Lankford told constituents on Friday. “My assumption is that the Senate will vote it down,” he added, but suggested that this would depend on who the president nominates and that he “clearly hopes” for a Scalia-like replacement.
Jim Inhofe (R-OK) “No hearings,” Inhofe told reporters on Tuesday. Asked whether he’d be open even to a moderate nominee, he responded: “No.”
Pat Toomey (R-PA): “Given that we are already well into the presidential election process and that the Supreme Court appointment is for a lifetime, it makes sense to give the American people a more direct say in this critical decision. The next Court appointment should be made by the newly-elected president,” Toomey said in a statement. While President Obama “certainly has the authority” to make a nomination, he added, “let’s be clear — his nominee will be rejected by the Senate… We should honor Justice Scalia’s legacy, and we should put off a decision on his replacement until the newly-elected president can make his or her choice.”
Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Judiciary Committee member: Graham signed a letter Tuesday, along with all Judiciary Committee Republicans vowing to “withhold consent to any nominee to the Supreme Court submitted by this President to fill Justice Scalia’s vacancy,” and to “not hold hearings on any Supreme Court nominee until after our next President is sworn in on January 20, 2017.” He had earlier urged a consensus choice, “someone who 90 percent of us will agree upon,” like Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT).
Tim Scott (R-SC): “The next president has a responsibility to nominate a justice that will continue defending the principles that make our nation great,” Scott said in a statement.
Mike Rounds (R-SD): “I think it would be fair to say that there is a very strong consensus that we believe the next president of the United States should make that determination after the people of the United States vote for the next president. And there’s precedent for that,” he said on C-SPAN Wednesday. Asked if he had any concerns with 8 justices he said, “Really not.”
John Thune (R-SD), chairman of the Senate Republican Conference: “A lame duck president should not be making a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. The American people deserve to have their voices heard in this process and will have that opportunity in the election this year,” Thune said at a press conference on Tuesday. “The next president of the United States, be it a Democrat or a Republican, should be making that nomination. And we believe that’s the way this process should proceed and as was pointed out earlier, that is the view of the Republican senate and we think it’s the view of the American people.”
Lamar Alexander (R-TN): “I believe it is reasonable to give the American people a voice by allowing the next president to fill this lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. Under our Constitution, the president has the right to nominate, but the Senate has the right to decide whether to consent at this point in a presidential election year. Sen. McConnell is only doing what the Senate majority has the right to do and what Senate Democrat leaders have said they would do in similar circumstances,” Alexander said in a statement.
Bob Corker (R-TN): “The president has the right to nominate a Supreme Court justice, and the Constitution gives the Senate the power to decide whether to confirm the nominee. But at this point, I believe it would be more prudent to have the American people express their voice in deciding the future direction of our country,” Corker said in a statement.
Ted Cruz (R-TX), Judiciary Committee member: “Justice Scalia was an American hero. We owe it to him, & the Nation, for the Senate to ensure that the next President names his replacement,” the presidential hopeful Cruz tweeted on Saturday. Asked on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday if he would filibuster any Obama nominee, Cruz said: “Absolutely… The Senate’s duty is to advise and consent. We’re advising that a lame-duck president in an election year is not going to be able to tip the balance of the Supreme Court.” In Sunday’s GOP debate, host John Dickerson called out Cruz for his false claim that “we have 80 years of precedent of not confirming Supreme Court Justices in an election year.”
John Cornyn (R-TX), Judiciary Committee member: “There’s precedent for rejecting Obama Supreme Court nominee,” Senate Majority Whip Cornyn tweeted on Monday. In a radio interview, Cornyn added that, while it was up to Judiciary Chairman Grassley and Majority Leader McConnell whether a nominee got a hearing or a vote, “It’s entirely up to the Senate whether to confirm that nomination, and I think we should not.” He told CNN that no Obama nominee should even be given a confirmation hearing.
Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Judiciary Committee member: “Let’s do what’s best for America. Let’s not put this, one of the most contentious Supreme Court nominations in history, into the middle of one of the most contentious (presidential) nomination process ever,” Senate President Pro Tempore Hatch told Utah state legislators on Tuesday, praising McConnell’s pledge to block any Obama nomination as “fair to both sides.” He told CNN on Wednesday that he would not support a filibuster of a nominee, but that one would not be necessary: “All it would take is for Sen. Grassley to just say, ‘look, we’re not going to confirm anybody this year.’ The reason we’re not going to confirm is we value the court, we don’t want it to be in this political atmosphere. We value the integrity of the court and we’re going to put it over to next year.”
Mike Lee (R-UT), Judiciary Committee member: “As important as it is for the Senate to jealously guard and exercise its power to give the American people a voice through the confirmation process of a president’s judicial nominees, the stakes are just as high when Congress chooses to forfeit its legislative power through passage of vaguely worded laws that empower the executive branch at the legislative branch’s expense,” Lee wrote on Facebook Tuesday. An aide tweeted on Saturday, “What is less than zero? The chances of Obama successfully appointing a Supreme Court Justice to replace Scalia?”
Ron Johnson (R-WI): “I strongly agree that the American people should decide the future direction of the Supreme Court by their votes for president and the majority party in the U.S. Senate,” Johnson said in a statement on Sunday. But on Tuesday, he told a local radio host that while he believes refusing to confirm any Obama nominee is “a very reasonable position,” he would be open to defeating his pick via an actual vote: “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.”
Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV): “Senator Capito agrees agrees with Leader Mitch McConnell and Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley that the next president should nominate Justice Scalia’s replacement. With just a few months until the election and many important issues pending before the Court, West Virginians should have an opportunity to express their views and elect a new president who will select the Supreme Court Justice,” her office said in a statement.
John Barrasso (R-WY): Although Barrasso told a local TV station on Wednesday that “the next president in this presidential election out to be the decider as to who appoints the next Supreme Court justice,” he also acknowledged that Obama could has a constitutional right to propose a nominee. “The president has a right to put forth a name then come to the Senate for advice and consent,” Barrasso said.
Michael Enzi (R-WY): “The American people should decide on next U.S. Supreme Court justice,” Enzi said in a Thursday statement. “The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee has announced the committee’s intention to exercise its constitutional authority to withhold consent on a nominee submitted by this president. I believe the American people should decide the direction of the Supreme Court.”
Mark Kirk (R-IL): “I fully expect and look forward to President Barack Obama advancing a nominee for the Senate to consider. I also recognize my duty as a senator to either vote in support or opposition to that nominee following a fair and thorough hearing along with a complete and transparent release of all requested information. The Senate’s role in providing advice and consent is as important and significant as the president’s role in proposing a nominee,” Kirk wrote Monday in an Chicago Sun-Times opinion piece. He added that an extreme or partisan nominee “would not be prudent nor would it provide a steady, scholarly hand to guide the constitutional ship of state.”
Jerry Moran (R-KS) Moran told a local newspaper that it’s “difficult to imagine” President Obama taking the Senate’s role seriously, “making confirmation this year unlikely.” Still, he indicated that the process could move forward this year. “The Republican-led Senate, which I worked hard to secure, has a constitutional responsibility in the process of determining Supreme Court justices,” Moran said.
Rand Paul (R-KY): “I think the president sort of has a conflict of interest here in appointing somebody while we’re trying to decide whether or not he’s usurped power,” Paul said in a radio interview. “It’s going to be very, very, very difficult to get me to vote for a presidential nomination from this president.” Still, Paul pledged to “look at it if it comes down.” He suggested a filibuster would be likely of any Obama pick, warning “we’re not going to take it lying down and let the president have his way without one heck of a fight.”
Susan Collins (R-ME): “More than any other appointment upon which the Senate is called to pass judgment, nominees to the Supreme Court warrant 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 in a statement on Sunday, while criticizing those who were “speculating so soon about a new Supreme Court nominee given that Justice Scalia died only yesterday and unexpectedly.” On Wednesday, she told constituents that “there will be plenty of time for the process to move forward,” and that the Senate “should carry out our constitutional duty.” In a CNN interview, she urged the Senate to “follow regular order and give careful consideration to any nominee.”
Ben Sasse (R-NE): “I think many people are jumping straight to a fight about timing and that really isn’t the core issue,” Sasse told a local radio network on Wednesday. “The core issue is: what is the job of the Supreme Court; what is the job of the Supreme Court justice? And that’s what we should be having this conversation about.” In a video statement, he said he would support an Obama nominee if that nominee “loves the Constitution” and would repudiate what he termed Obama’s “theory of ‘I have a pen and I have a phone’ executive unilateralism.”
Dean Heller (R-NV): “The chances of approving a new nominee are slim, but Nevadans should have a voice in the process,” Heller said in a statement on Wednesday. He encouraged Obama to “use this opportunity to put the will of the people ahead of advancing a liberal agenda on the nation’s highest court,” but stopped short of saying Obama shouldn’t nominate anyone at all.
Jim Risch (R-ID)