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GOP leaders continue to refuse to consider Obama's SCOTUS nominee

Senate GOP leaders remained steadfast Wednesday in their promise to not consider a Supreme Court nominee until Americans elect a new president.

Shortly after President Obama announced his decision to nominate 63-year-old Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court at the White House Wednesday morning, Republicans on Capitol Hill reacted to his pick.

"The American people may well elect a president who decides to nominate Judge Garland for Senate consideration. The next president may also nominate someone very different. Either way, our view is this: Give the people a voice in the filling of this vacancy," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said from the Senate floor.

McConnell told Garland by phone Wednesday afternoon that the Senate would not be taking on the nomination, according to his office. In his floor speech, he added that the upper chamber, which confirmed Garland to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 1997 in a 76-23 vote, would "revisit the matter" when it considers the next president's Supreme Court nominee.

While Republicans have repeatedly said they would wait until January 2017, none of their reactions Wednesday made clear whether they would be willing to consider his nomination in the lame-duck session between the election in November and when the next president is sworn in next January.

And while many of the Republican responses echoed McConnell, none appeared to criticize Garland as a potential Supreme Court justice.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, once called Garland "a consensus nominee," but the president pro tempore and former Judiciary Committee chairman said Wednesday that it's not about the person or the president, but the integrity of the high court.

Asked Wednesday if Hatch will meet with Garland, the senator's spokesman responded with one word: "No."

But later in the day, Hatch told reporters directly he "probably would" meet with Garland.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, said on the Senate floor Wednesday that it would "not confirm" Garland's nomination and said that he does not plan to meet with Garland, who the White House said will meet Thursday afternoon with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, and Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont.

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Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has not said whether he would meet with Garland, but reiterated in a statement that the Senate had decided to fulfill "its constitutional role of advice and consent by withholding support for the nomination during an election year."

Grassley suggested Mr. Obama only chose Garland based on an "empathy standard," but the president argued in his announcement that the judge is "one of America's sharpest legal minds" and has "earned a track-record of building consensus as a thoughtful, fair-minded judge who follows the law." Garland himself expressed a different standard at his nomination.

"Fidelity to the Constitution and the law has been the cornerstone of my professional life," he said, adding, that if confirmed, "I promise to continue on that course."

Sen. James Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, spoke to Garland on the phone Wednesday, according to his spokeswoman, who said that Inhofe "let him know that he will not be considering any nominee during this presidential election cycle."

Some senators have expressed a willingness to meet with him, including Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-New Hampshire, one of 22 senators running for reelection this year.

"He's an appeals court judge and out of courtesy and respect she would be willing to meet with him, but she continues to believe that the American people should have a voice in the direction of the Court based on who they elect in November," Ayotte spokeswoman Liz Johnson said.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she looks forward to meeting Garland.

"The White House has requested that I meet with Judge Garland, and I look forward to doing so, as has been my practice with all Supreme Court nominees," she said in a statement.

Sens. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Mark Kirk, R-Illinois, also said they would be willing to meet with Garland. Kirk, who faces a tough reelection race, said the Senate's role is to provide advice and consent and plans to "assess Judge Merrick Garland based on his record and qualifications."

Garland has developed the reputation of maintaining a moderate record, and has received support from both Democrats and Republicans in the past. In his 1997 Senate confirmation vote, seven sitting Republican senators voted to confirm him: Sen. Dan Coats, R-Indiana; Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine; Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Mississippi; Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Oklahoma; Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona; Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas; and Hatch. Five sitting Republicans voted against him, however, and two of them are key to the confirmation process: Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, and Sen. Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.

CBS News' Walt Cronkite, Steven Portnoy and Mark Knoller contributed to this story.

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