If he suggested any misgivings about whether to block President Barack Obama from filling a Supreme Court vacancy in his last year in the White House, Republican Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina is now sweeping away any doubts.
In a Senate floor speech, Tillis said the constitutional requirement for the Senate to approve any nominee to the court does not mean it must hold hearings, nor take a vote.
He said no candidate to succeed the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia should be considered until after Americans express their views in the presidential election.
Hours after Scalia’s Feb. 13 death, which left the court ideologically split 4-4, Tillis strongly backed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s declaration that no Obama nominee to fill the seat would be considered.
However, in a radio interview a couple of days later, he cautioned that if Republicans refuse to even hold a hearing, “we fall into the trap of being obstructionists.”
In the floor speech delivered late Thursday, Tillis sought to draw a parallel with 1992, when then-Democratic Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee and said the panel should put off filling any Supreme Court vacancy that developed in the final year of President George H.W. Bush’s term.
Tillis, who is a member of the Judiciary committee, quoted Biden as saying that the Senate Democratic majority “should not consider scheduling hearings on the nomination until after the political campaign season is over.”
Biden denied at the time that he was seeking to hold open a vacancy in hopes that a Democrat would win the White House that year, as Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton later did, saying he just wanted to delay action until after the November election.
“Vice President Biden’s remarks may have been voiced in 1992, but they are entirely applicable to 2016,” Tillis said in the speech, delivered late Thursday. “The campaign is already under way. It is essential to the institution of the Senate and to the very health of our republic to not launch our nation into a partisan, divisive confirmation battle during the very same time the American people are casting their ballots to elect our next president.”
“Vice President Biden – and this is not something I’ve said very often – was absolutely correct. There should be no hearings,” Tillis said. “There should be no confirmation. The most pragmatic conclusion to draw is to hold the Supreme Court vacancy until the American people’s voices have been heard.”
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