A handful of vulnerable Republican senators up for re-election this year are having trouble deciding whether they’re on the side of voters in their states who want them to consider President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, or whether they’re standing with their obstructionist GOP colleagues who have pledged to block the nomination at all costs.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said just minutes after Justice Antonin Scalia died last month that he would not consider any nominee Obama put forth, and today he stuck to that pledge, despite the fact that Obama’s nominee — DC Circuit Court Chief Judge Merrick Garland — is a moderate whom many Republicans have previously either praised or voted for.
But in another sign that the Republican Party is in disarray, several Republican senators engaged in tight re-election campaigns are trying to have it both ways.
With swing-state polls showing that voters wouldn’t treat incumbents blocking Obama’s nominee favorably, these Republicans are scrambling wildly, trying to find that perfect balance of obstructionist, but not too obstructionist. They’ll meet with Garland (trying to look good for the voters) but at the same time pledging to block his consideration (“We’re still with you McConnell!”).
Take Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) for example. On the one hand, she’s with the voters. “Out of courtesy and respect we will certainly meet with him if he would like to meet with me,” she said on Wednesday. Yet in a separate statement released on the same day, Ayotte says she’s with McConnell: “I continue to believe the Senate should not move forward with the confirmation process until the people have spoken by electing a new president.”
The same goes for Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), who’s in a close match up with former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland:
And here’s how Sen. Pat Toomey, who’s in danger of losing his seat in Pennsylvania, tried to straddle the fence:
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), who is facing a rematch with former Sen. Russ Feingold, as of this writing hasn’t said anything about Garland specifically. But since Scalia’s death, he’s been all over the place, saying he’d be willing to have a vote, but then also wanting to leave the matter up to the next president.
Either way, it’s not looking good for the Republicans, particularly with the added possibility of Donald Trump as their party’s standard bearer.
Chrissy Schwen contributed to this article.