McCain backs off promise to block Supreme Court nominees if Clinton wins election

By Stephen Feller  |  Updated Oct. 18, 2016 at 5:55 AM
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PHILADELPHIA, Oct. 18 (UPI) -- Arizona Sen. John McCain said in a radio interview Monday that Republicans would block any nominee to the Supreme Court if Hillary Clinton becomes president, but backed down slightly after Democrats criticized the blanket stance.

McCain said Republicans would "be united" against any nomination to the Supreme Court Clinton makes but issued a statement later in the day clarifying he would examine the record of any nominee before deciding whether to vote yes or no.

Two of the court's justices are 80 or older and one is 78, raising the potential for three nominations during the next president's term, in addition to the seat left vacant earlier this year by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Both Republicans and Democrats have said the three justices' advancing age means either Clinton or Republican Donald Trump would help define whether the court leans liberal or conservative for at least a generation.

"I promise you that we will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put up," McCain said during an appearance on the Dom Giordano Program on Philadephia radio station WPHT-AM.

McCain was on the show while campaigning for Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., emphasizing the Republican would be an important part of that opposition.

Democrats immediately reacted to the comments, noting the Republican-controlled Senate still has not held hearings on President Barack Obama's nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, to replace Scalia. Garland's nomination was made more than six months ago.

McCain's opponent in the Arizona Senate race, Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., called McCain's initial pledge "partisan politics at its worst."

In a statement later Monday, McCain spokeswoman Rachel Dean clarified the comments, saying McCain would carefully consider any nominee to the court -- though he expects if Clinton wins the election they will be overly liberal.

"Senator McCain believes you can only judge people by their record and Hillary Clinton has a clear record of supporting liberal judicial nominees," Dean said. "That being said, Senator McCain will, of course, thoroughly examine the record of any Supreme Court nominee put before the Senate and vote for or against that individual based on their qualifications as he has done throughout his career."

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