UPDATED: March 18, 2016, 5:03 PM ET
Despite Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) flat-out rejecting Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, a number of Republican senators said Wednesday that they would meet with Judge Merrick Garland.
Brian Deese, a senior advisor to the President who led the White House’s SCOTUS process, highlighted some Republicans’ softening their earlier hard-line remarks in a call with reporters.
“I am old enough to remember a few weeks ago when Republicans said uniformly they wouldn’t even meet with our nominee,” Deese said. “And just in the past hour since the President announced him in the Rose Garden, we’ve seen more than a handful of Republicans announce that they were willing to meet with our nominee.”
Here’s a running list of the GOP senators who have said they plan to meet with Garland.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
A late-in-the-day addition, the White House confirmed late Wednesday that Grassley, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, would meet with Garland after the Senate returns from recess.
Grassley railed against Obama for putting forward a SCOTUS nominee during an election year in a statement, saying the confirmation is “too important to get bogged down in politics.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)
Just two days after dropping out of the Republican presidential race, Rubio told a Fox News reporter he knows enough about the nominee to know he wouldn’t support him, but he would be open to meeting with Garland.
Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL)
Keeping with his earlier remarks that he would meet with a nominee put forward by Obama, Kirk said Wednesday that he would assess Garland “based on his record and qualifications.”
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH)
After saying last month the next President should choose Justice Antonin Scalia’s successor, Ayotte said in a Wednesday interview she would meet with Garland “out of courtesy and respect.”
“He’s a current appeals court judge and out of courtesy and respect we will certainly meet with him if he would like to meet with me,” Ayotte told Politico. “I would want to explain my position to the nominee…I would want to give him that courtesy.”
But in a statement, she reiterated the Senate “should not move forward with the confirmation process until the people have spoken by electing a new President.”
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ)
Flake, who sits on the Judiciary Committee, also said he would meet with Garland.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME)
According to a report from the Washington Examiner, Collins said she would meet with the nominee.
Republican Sen Susan Collins said she will meet with SCOTUS nominee. Obama called and asked her to do so.
— Susan Ferrechio (@susanferrechio) March 16, 2016
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK)
While Inhofe said he would meet with Garland, he said in a statement that he opposes the nomination and the next President should replace Scalia.
“I will oppose this nomination as I firmly believe we must let the people decide the Supreme Court’s future,” he said in the statement.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH)
While The Hill reported Portman said he will meet with Garland, he said he would not change his position about Obama nominating a justice before leaving office.
“This is about the principle, not the person,” he said in a statement. “After the election, I look forward to considering the nominee of our new President. Whether the American people elect a Republican or Democrat, I will judge his or her nominee on the merits, as I always have.”
Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS)
“President Obama is within his constitutional rights to submit a nominee for the Supreme Court vacancy, and the Senate is within its constitutional rights to determine how it will exercise its advice and consent responsibilities,” he said.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI)
“I have no problem with meeting with people,” Johnson told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I’ll have to say, I’m not sure what the point will be.”
He also said “it’s not fair to the court” to try to nominate a Supreme Court justice during a “politicized” election year.
Johnson faces a difficult re-election race in the state.
Sen. James Lankford (R-OK)
Lankford told the Los Angeles Times that in an informal poll at a telephone town hall with constituents Monday night, the majority said the nomination should wait until after 2016.
“I have no problem meeting with him,” he said. “But we already know where this is going to go.”
Lankford is also up for re-election.
TPM reporter Tierney Sneed contributed reporting in DC.
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