WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley is digging in on Republicans' decision to block all action on an eventual Supreme Court nominee this year, saying Democrats are only criticizing the strategy to score political points.
Grassley, R-Iowa, said at a committee meeting Thursday that Democrats' efforts to pressure him to change his mind will be futile. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has delivered daily speeches on the Senate floor against Grassley, sometimes attacking him personally.
There's also been speculation that President Barack Obama will nominate 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Jane L. Kelly, a former Iowa public defender confirmed in 2013 with Grassley's support.
Obama will nominate a replacement for Justice Antonin Scalia, who died last month.
"I think we need to be crystal clear, it won't work," Grassley said in a 15-minute speech. He said Democratic blowback is "all about using this process to score political points, it's that simple."
Also Thursday, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., defended Grassley and his work on an anti-drug bill and the Supreme Court fight.
"Here's a chairman who has worked to give voices to the voiceless who also has a passion for letting Iowans and the American people be heard," McConnell said on the Senate floor. "No wonder he's working so hard now to give the people a voice in the direction of the Supreme Court. The next Supreme Court justice could dramatically change the direction of the court and our country for a generation."
Grassley's comments came in anticipation of Democrats using the unrelated meeting to criticize the GOP for blocking the eventual nominee. They have blamed Republicans for deciding not to hold hearings or a vote.
Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said the decision is "a serious and indeed unprecedented breach" of Senate process. One by one, Republicans on the committee defended Grassley and Democrats criticized the delay.
"I'm sorry if you feel the attention is directed toward you," Leahy said to Grassley, whom he described as a longtime friend. "It's not. It's not about you or me, it's about the Constitution."
Leahy told Grassley: "You and I were both elected to serve for six years, not five and a quarter." Both men are up for re-election this year.
Republicans argued that the Constitution does not give a timeline on how long it should take to confirm a justice. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a former GOP presidential contender, said the fight is a product of Democratic efforts to block Republican nominees. He said the decision to put the process off in an election year is "the new rule," and challenged Democrats to use his words against him if the same thing happened under a Republican president.
"You can use my words against me and you'd be absolutely right," Graham said.
Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, shot back: "To say if we make a mistake today, we'll make it again in the future doesn't give me any comfort at all."
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