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Obama, Republicans talk Supreme Court fight at White House; Reid says GOP waiting for 'President Trump'

"[Republican leaders] are going to wait and see what President Trump will do, I guess," Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said following the meet.

By
Andrew V. Pestano and Doug G. Ware
President Barack Obama meets with Vice President Joe Biden and bipartisan leaders of the Senate and members of the Judiciary Committee to discuss the Supreme Court vacancy left by the Feb. 13 death of Justice Antonin Scalia, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. Obama met with, from left to right, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Ia.. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
President Barack Obama meets with Vice President Joe Biden and bipartisan leaders of the Senate and members of the Judiciary Committee to discuss the Supreme Court vacancy left by the Feb. 13 death of Justice Antonin Scalia, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. Obama met with, from left to right, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Ia.. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, March 1 (UPI) -- The fight over the next nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court moved to the White House on Tuesday, where President Barack Obama and Republican leadership tackled the issue head-on -- for a few minutes, anyway.

Obama met with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley in the Oval Office. Sen. Harry Reid, the Democratic minority leader; Sen. Patrick Leahy, the senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee; and Vice President Joe Biden were also part of the discussion.

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The meet was intended to gauge the climate of the impasse and perhaps start working toward a solution. Since Scalia's death on Feb. 13, Democrats and Republicans have been at odds over whether Obama or the next president should nominate a replacement.

And if the length of Tuesday's short meeting is any indication, the matter still has a long way to go.

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"They were adamant. They said, 'no, we're not going to do this at all. We are going to do what's never been done before,'" Reid said immediately after the meeting. "Never in the history of the country has anything like this happened, where they won't meet with the [nominee], they simply won't hold [confirmation] hearings. ... All we want them to do is fill their constitutional duties and do their job.

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"At this stage, they have decided not to do that. They are going to wait and see what President [Donald] Trump will do, I guess."

Citing the U.S. Constitution, Obama has promised to name a nominee to the Supreme Court in the coming weeks. Republican leadership, though, maintains that not only won't they give any such nominee a confirmation hearing, they won't even meet with them.

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"There wasn't much said at the meeting," Reid said, according to The New York Times.

"[Republicans] are using one excuse after another to explain why they shouldn't have to do their jobs. Wouldn't it be easier just to do the right thing?" Reid wrote on his Twitter page.

Obama has already appointed two justices to the Supreme Court during his presidency -- Sonia Sotomayor in 2009 and Elena Kagan a year later -- and some Republican leaders argue that with less than a year remaining in his second term, leaving Scalia's seat vacant for the new president to fill is the right move.

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Tuesday's meet occurred a day after harsh criticism on the Senate floor from Reid toward Grassley's pledge to effectively ignore any Obama nominee.

"The chairman has turned the impartial reputation of the Judiciary Committee into an extension of the Trump campaign," Reid said.

"It's another day and another tantrum from the minority leader," Grassley replied. "But it doesn't matter how much he jumps up and down and stomps his feet, we aren't going to let the far left get away with denying the American people the opportunity to be heard."

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President Barack Obama meets with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Ia., (bottom left) during a meeting with bipartisan leaders to discuss the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., Tuesday. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI

McConnell further stated Republicans' position in an op-ed posted by WCPO-TV in Cincinnati on Tuesday.

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"Americans should not be denied this opportunity to shape the direction of the court," he wrote. "Some Democrats disagree. They think the Senate should simply roll over and affirm a lifetime appointment from a lame duck president who is on his way out the door."

McConnell stated that even Biden, a former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has argued that exact same point in the past.

"[Biden] admonished then-President George H.W. Bush not to fill any Supreme Court vacancy that might occur during an election year," McConnell continued. "He further suggested that the Senate not hold confirmation hearings were the president to name someone.

"A confirmation battle now would needlessly divide the nation. Let's allow the American people to speak, and to chart the path forward for the Court and for our country."

The Senate has never taken more than 125 days to vote on a nomination to the Supreme Court. On average, historically, high court appointees have been confirmed, denied or withdrew within 25 days of their nominations.

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Monday, the White House pressed the issue with a series of tweets on the matter.

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"The last time a president's Supreme Court nominee was denied a hearing? 1875," one read.

Another cited remarks made by Republican President Ronald Reagan in 1988, which said Supreme Court nominations are "too important to be made a political football" -- and that "the American people should expect ... for the Senate to get to work and act."

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