Grassley Will Take an Obama Justice Nomination ‘One Step At a Time’

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MARENGO, Iowa -- In a conference Tuesday afternoon, President Barack Obama reiterated his plans to choose a replacement for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Some Republicans say since Obama leaves office next year, the next president should pick the replacement. This makes Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley a prominent figure in the debate.

Grassley spoke in the Marengo Public Library’s basement Tuesday about the Supreme Court nomination process.

There were more people than chairs and there were almost as many questions for Grassley’s traditional town hall.

Topics like Planned Parenthood, debt and trade deals didn’t invoke more questions than the death of Justice Scalia, who Grassley said was “the anchor to hold the Constitution together."

The senator fielded several questions on what he would do if Obama nominates a replacement for the late justice.

“I'm going to take it a step at a time,” he repeated.

Reporters quickly learned Grassley’s answers wouldn’t flourish past that.

“I don't set the agenda of the United States Senate. I will take it a step at a time. The president hasn't nominated anybody yet,” Grassley said.

Obama does nominate someone, Grassley’s Washington power is on display.

Grassley chairs the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee, and that committee is the first step in hearings for a Supreme Court nominee.

As chair, it is Grassley’s call whether to hold those hearings, but he doesn't think the lame duck president should put him in that position.

“I think I’m pretty clear that this should carry over to the next election, but on the other hand, I think take it a step at a time,” Grassley said.

After the town hall, Channel 13’s Dave Price pushed to know that next step.

“You're not ready at this point to say it doesn't matter who the name is, we're not going to take it. Why are you holding back?” Price asked.

“I’m not holding. I’m taking it one step at a time,” Grassley said. “I’m saying we’re taking it one step at a time.”

Price tried to pin Grassley down on when it would still be permitted for a president to name a nominee.

Grassley said in 2007, New York’s Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer said the Senate shouldn’t confirm a George W. Bush nominee when there was 18 months left in Bush's second term.

Grassley said if that was the case then for a Republican president, then 18 months left should be the same for a Democratic president.