WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley lashed out at the Senate's top Democrat on Monday, accusing him and his colleagues of throwing tantrums over Republican opposition to President Barack Obama filling the Supreme Court vacancy.
It was the latest shot in an escalating feud between the Iowa senator, who is seeking a seventh term this November and facing criticism back home for his actions, and Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. Reid is retiring at the end of this year, but determined to help his party regain majority control of the Senate.
"Now as each day passes, the senior senator from Iowa is trying desperately to justify his blind loyalty to the Republican leader and to Donald Trump," Reid said, referring to the GOP presidential front-runner. "Senator Grassley is grasping for any rationale — anything that will excuse him for not doing his job."
Grassley appeared on the floor shortly after, speaking sharply about what he sees as the Obama administration's overreach and his justification for blocking a vote.
"The tantrums from the other side continue," Grassley said. "But I guess it shouldn't surprise anybody, as everyone knows around here nothing makes the minority leader more mad than when his side is forced to play by its own rules."
The fight is fueled by election-year politics: Republicans say the next president should fill the court opening after the death last month of Justice Antonin Scalia. The GOP, led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, argues that the American people should have the final word in November.
Reid has spent the last week delivering daily speeches against Grassley, accusing him of abandoning the Constitution and blindly adhering to McConnell's wishes.
Shortly before speaking on the Senate floor, Reid met with Patty Judge, the former Iowa lieutenant governor who launched a Democratic bid to oust Grassley.
The 82-year-old senator is widely popular in his home state and at this stage in the race, favored to win another term. However, the Democratic challenge will force Grassley to spend money and deal with the home-state criticism.
An op-ed in the Des Moines Register by a Republican and Democrat last week assailed Grassley for using his chairmanship to block any hearing on the nomine and said, "this isn't the Chuck Grassley we thought we knew."
Judge has said her campaign would focus on Grassley's handling of the nomination. If so, she is certain to have no problem raising money from liberals furious with GOP efforts to ignore Obama's court nominee.
Republicans have repeatedly invoked a 1992 speech in which Vice President Joe Biden, then the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, advocated putting off a late-term appointment to the Supreme Court should one arise during the last months of President George H.W. Bush's administration. They are calling the speech "The Biden rules."
Democrats also criticized Grassley last week for trying to move an unrelated Judiciary Committee hearing out of public view. That meeting was postponed until this Thursday, when Democrats are expected to further beat up on Republicans for their decision.