Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., with Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
WASHINGTON, Feb. 23 (UPI) -- Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee say they have come to a consensus that there should be no hearings on a Supreme Court nominee this year to replace Justice Antonin Scalia.
"We believe the American people need to decide who is going to make this appointment rather than a lame-duck president," The Hill quoted Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn of Texas as saying after a special meeting of the Judiciary Committee.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., chimed in, saying the next president should pick the nominee.
President Obama challenged the Republicans' assertion, saying earlier this month the "Constitution is pretty clear about what is supposed to happen now."
"There's no unwritten law that says that it can only be done on off years," The New York Times quoted Obama as saying. "That's not in the constitutional text."
On Monday two Republican lawmakers -- Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine -- broke ranks with party leaders and argued for the nomination process to go forward.
"For my part, it's clear that the president can send up a nominee -- regardless of where he is before he leaves office," Collins told CNN. "It is the duty of the Senate, under the Constitution, to give our advice and give our consent or withhold our consent. I believe we should follow the regular order and give careful consideration to any nominee that the president may send to the Senate."
A CBS poll last week found Americans were closely divided over who should nominate the next justice, with 47 percent saying Obama should choose the nominee and 46 percent preferring the next president to do so.