U.S. Senate's McConnell rules out lame duck action on court

The hard line opens up the possibility of a Democratic president nominating a more liberal justice. Some Republican senators have said they would be willing to meet with the current nominee, Merrick Garland.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., flanked by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., left, and Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, right, talks to reporters following a closed-door policy meeting at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, March 15, 2016.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Sunday ruled out the possibility that the Senate could confirm President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee in a "lame duck" congressional session after the November presidential election.

In several television interviews, Mr. McConnell said Republican senators had no intention of confirming Obama's nominee Merrick Garland, even if Democrats win the presidency and the Senate majority in November. This would open up the possibility of a Democratic president sending the Senate a nominee who is more liberal than Mr. Garland next year.

"I can't imagine that a Republican majority Congress, in a lame duck session, after the American people have spoken, would want to confirm [Garland]," McConnell told CNN.

"That's not going to happen," McConnell told Fox News on Sunday. "The principle is the same, whether it's before the election or after the election. The principle is the American people are choosing their next president and their next president should pick this Supreme Court nominee."

Nominations to the lifetime Supreme Court post require Senate confirmation. But McConnell says the Republican-run Senate will not have a hearing or a vote on Garland.

Republicans have said they want the next president to make the selection, hoping their party wins November's election. Billionaire businessman Donald Trump is the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination.

Garland, 63, is widely viewed as a moderate acceptable to many Republicans. But McConnell said Garland's nomination was opposed by the National Rifle Association and the National Federation of Independent Businesses, two key constituencies for the Republican party.

He told Fox that Garland was not a moderate, and said the Republican majority would not want to confirm him "even if it were soon to be in the minority."

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid told "Meet the Press" that he thought the Republican facade against Garland would break, because some Republican senators already have said they would be willing to meet Garland and one Republican has said there should be a vote.

"McConnell is leading his Senate over the cliff. And I am telling everybody that's watching this, the senators aren't going to allow that," Reid said.

The White House said it would stand by President Obama's nominee.

"We will stand by him from now until he is confirmed and he's sitting on the Supreme Court," White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said on Fox News on Sunday.

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Additional reporting by Andrea Shalal-Esa and Andy Sullivan; Editing by David Clarke and Stephen Powell)

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