Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) — the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and thus a major player in the GOP Senate’s refusal to confirm President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee — opened the door to confirming Judge Merrick Garland in a lame-duck session, even as he continued to defend Republicans’ stance that the successor to the late Justice Antonin Scalia should be chosen by the next president.
At a question and answer session in Sioux City Monday, Grassley told attendees that, “It had nothing to do with Garland,” but there was an “understanding” that Supreme Court vacancies that opened in up in a president’s final year should not be filled by that president, according to the Sioux City Journal.
But, he added, his blockade on considering Garland might lift if enough of his GOP colleagues express a desire to push the judge through after the election. Per the Sioux City Journal:
Grassley said the only way his stance could change is if a large number of senators strongly urged him to consider the nomination during a so-called “lame-duck session” of Congress, during the time after the Nov. 8 election and before the new Congress takes office in January.
Grassley’s office did not respond to TPM’s request to clarify or expand upon the comment.
Garland is considered a moderate judge who has been praised by Republicans in the past. Court observers believe that it’s possible Hillary Clinton could chose a Supreme Court appointee younger and farther to his left if she wins the presidency and Scalia’s seat remains open come her inauguration.
Other Republicans have called upon the Senate to consider a lame-duck confirmation of Garland if Donald Trump is defeated. However, some GOP senators argue that confirming Garland in a lame-duck session would undermine the rationale for blocking consideration of Obama’s pick in the first place.
Update: A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is already throwing cold water on any suggestion that Garland could be pushed through in a lame duck session, according to Politico’s Burgess Everett.
.@StewSays on Grassley SCOTUS confirmation comments: “The Leader has been clear, the next President will make this nomination.”
— Burgess Everett (@burgessev) August 30, 2016