President Barack Obama wants Senate Republicans who refuse to consider his Supreme Court nominee to know that the American people have chosen him to do so, by electing him to office.
"One of the most puzzling arguments that I've heard from [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell and some other Republicans is this notion that the American people should decide," Obama told NPR. "We should let the American people decide as part of this election, who gets to fill this seat. Well, in fact the American people did decide — back in 2012 when they elected me president of the United States with sufficient electoral votes."
On March 16, President Obama nominated D.C. Circuit Judge Merrick Garland to fill the vacant seat on the Supreme Court. Senate Republicans have refused to consider the president’s nomination because it is his final year in office and they think the new justice should be decided by the American people’s newly elected president.
"The American people are perfectly capable of having their say on this issue, so let's give them a voice," McConnell said after the announcement of Garland's nomination. "Let's let the American people decide. The Senate will appropriately revisit the matter when it considers the qualifications of the nominee the next president nominates, whoever that might be."
Obama sees illogic in McConnell’s statement.
”[The American people] decided that the Republicans would be in the majority," Obama continued. "They didn't say we're going to decide that you are going to be in charge for three years and then in the last year you all take a break. They say 'No, you're the president for four years and Mr. McConnell you're going to be the leader because we've given you a Majority in the Senate."
Obama wants the American people to remind senators of their job responsibilities.
“So the American people have already had a say, but now what we need to do is make sure the American people will remind senators that they have a job to do,” Obama said on a March 17 conference call, according to The Hill. “Senators that are trying to obstruct the process need to be told that we expect the Supreme Court to be above partisan politics, and that the court should be operating at full capacity to help the American people.”
Garland has a reputation as a centrist, but he may shift the ideological balance of the Supreme Court to the left. This would be strikingly different to the conservative views of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, of whom he would replace.
Senate Democrats have begun meeting with Garland, while criticizing their Republican counterparts for failing to do so, NPR reports.
"Why are they afraid to meet with him?," Democratic Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada asked after his meeting with Garland. "Why are they afraid to hold hearing? Are they afraid the American people are going to watch these hearings and demand they do something even more than they're demanding now?"