WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. John McCain pledged Monday that Republicans will unite against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton puts forward if she becomes president, forecasting obstruction that could tie Capitol Hill in knots.
However an aide later clarified that McCain, R-Ariz., will examine the record of anyone nominated for the high court and vote for or against that person based on their qualifications.
McCain's initial comments came in an interview with Philadelphia talk radio host Dom Giordano to promote the candidacy of Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa.
"I promise you that we will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put up," McCain said. "I promise you. This is where we need the majority and Pat Toomey is probably as articulate and effective on the floor of the Senate as anyone I have encountered."
"This is the strongest argument I can make to return Pat Toomey, so we can make sure there are not three places on the United States Supreme Court that will change this country for decades," McCain said.
There is already one vacancy on the court after the death of Antonin Scalia. Republicans have refused to fill the opening for months, arguing it should be left up to the next president. Given the ages of some of the eight remaining justices, additional vacancies are expected.
Republicans' refusal to allow a President Clinton to get her Supreme Court picks confirmed would certainly result in a major conflagration in the Senate and between Congress and the White House. Democrats are already suggesting that one outcome, known as the "nuclear option," might be to eliminate the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees. That would be a possibility only if Democrats retake Senate control.
Asked to clarify McCain's comment, spokeswoman Rachael Dean said: "Sen. McCain believes you can only judge people by their record, and Hillary Clinton has a clear record of supporting liberal judicial nominees. That being said, Sen. McCain will, of course, thoroughly examine the record of any Supreme Court nominee put before the Senate and vote for or against that individual based on their qualifications, as he has done throughout his career."
In the same radio interview McCain also questioned the host's assertion that Donald Trump would be superior to Clinton on the issue of Supreme Court nominees. "I don't know, because I hear him saying a lot of different things," McCain said on that question.
McCain revoked his lukewarm endorsement of Trump after the Access Hollywood tape surfaced of Trump bragging about how his fame allowed him to "do anything" to women.