The all new
CBS News App for Android® for iPad® for iPhone®
Fully redesigned. Featuring CBSN, 24/7 live news. Get the App

Senate GOP: No hearings, confirmation vote for SCOTUS nominee

Last Updated Feb 24, 2016 2:54 PM EST

Senate Republicans on Tuesday said they had reached a consensus and decided that they will not hold confirmation hearings for any nominee President Obama appoints to the Supreme Court.

In a letter, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously recommended to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, that their panel not hold any hearings until the next president is sworn in next January.

"I believe the overwhelming view of the Republican conference of the Senate is that this nomination, this vacancy, should not be filled by this lame-duck president," McConnell told reporters after his conference met behind closed doors for lunch.

McConnell even ruled out meeting with Obama's forthcoming nominee: "I would not be inclined to take one myself."

"No hearing, no votes," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, a member of the Judiciary Committee, told reporters earlier in the day after members of the panel huddled with Senate GOP leaders in McConnell's office.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, echoed Graham: "No hearings."

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, appeared visibly angry after he learned that they would block the nomination.

"Before the president has even named a nominee to the Supreme Court, Republicans are doing what everyone thought was impossible," he said. "Is it real?"

Reid said their decision is "hard to comprehend" and said that Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, will "go down in history as the most obstructionist Judiciary chair in the history of our country."

Graham pointed to a statement that C-SPAN resurfaced on Monday that Vice President Joe Biden once made on the Senate floor in 1992 in which he appeared to take the same position Republicans are now taking on the consideration of a Supreme Court nominee in an election year.

"It is my view that if a Supreme Court justice resigns tomorrow or within the next several weeks, or resigns at the end of the summer, President Bush should consider following the practice of a majority of his predecessors and not, and not name a nominee until after the November election is completed," said Biden, who was then chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, on June 25, 1992.

"We like Joe Biden," Graham said Tuesday, referring to that comment.

The vice president, however, said Monday that that wasn't all of his statement. The Center for American Progress found a clip that it said was 10 minutes later in the same speech in which he called for compromise on nominees.

"My Republican colleagues can choose to vote for or against President Obama's nominee," Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, said on the Senate floor on Tuesday. "That is their prerogative. But they should not simply duck the vote. We weren't elected to this job to ignore important issues. We were elected to cast votes on important issues. And this is too important an issue to simply ignore."

Mr. Obama, meanwhile, began sifting through material related to possible nominees last weekend. Justice Antonin Scalia was celebrated at a funeral mass and buried in a private ceremony on Saturday. Scalia, 79, was found dead on Feb. 13 in his room at a West Texas resort.

Immediately following his death, McConnell released a statement saying that the Senate should wait until the next president is sworn in to consider any nominee.

CBS News' Walt Cronkite and Clare Hymes contributed to this story.

  • Rebecca Shabad

    Rebecca Shabad is a video reporter for CBS News Digital.