SCOTUS Nomination Block Would be ‘Political Obstructionism,’ Law Expert Says

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Sen. Chuck Grassley spoke with the press Wednesday after President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to replace Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court of the United States.

He said that while the president has a constitutional right to appoint a replacement, the Judiciary Committee also holds the right to deny a confirmation hearing. Grassley has not announced whether a confirmation hearing will be held, but it would have to be held before Jan. 20, 2017.

He held his view that the nomination is now about a person, but a principle.

"What we're going to be doing over the next months in the United States Senate -- this is not about a person or Judge Garland or anybody else. This is about a principle of letting people have a voice,” Grassley said Wednesday in a press conference. “So we are going to follow the principles that were laid down Sen. Biden when he was chairman of the committee, laid down by Sen. Reid in a more recent statement in 2005, laid down by Sen. Schumer in 2007.

“These were all instances of a possibility of a new president being elected and so they took the stand that we agree with so there is bipartisan statements on this already that this isn't about a person this is about letting the new president make the nomination to fill this seat and it would be in the principal of letting the people have a voice.”

Sen. Joni Ernst agrees with Grassley that the Judiciary Committee also holds the right to deny a confirmation hearing.

"I do support Chairman Grassley in this because he has stated that the American people should have a voice in this decision. We have a president who is on his way out, we have to remember this is a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court," she said.

Grassley has been answering critics of his decision to block any potential Supreme Court nominee via Twitter. On Monday, he began using the hashtag #doingmyjob on his tweets to highlight what he is accomplishing on Capitol Hill.

In a statement sent out shortly after Obama's announcement Wednesday morning, Grassley said:

“A lifetime appointment that could dramatically impact individual freedoms and change the direction of the court for at least a generation is too important to get bogged down in politics.  The American people shouldn’t be denied a voice.  Do we want a court that interprets the law, or do we want a court that acts as an unelected super legislature?  This year is a tremendous opportunity for our country to have a sincere and honest debate about the role of the Supreme Court in our constitutional system of government."

Watch Grassley's press conference below:

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One local law expert says a SCOTUS nomination block would be "political obstructionism."

“Judge Garland is eminently qualified to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. I think the vast majority of people who studied his record have concluded that he is somebody who is well within the mainstream of judicial opinions and judicial rulings," said Drake law professor Tony Gaughan.

Gaughan noted Garland is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, and he had a very a distinguished record on the Federal Appellate Court.

"He's clearly someone who is qualified, highly qualified to be a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. For the Republicans to block his appointment, that this point would really be simply an act of political obstructionism. There’s not a strong argument on intellectual grounds to at least give Judge Garland a vote -- an up or down vote -- in the U.S. Senate. Republicans will be under immense pressure throughout 2016 if they continue to deny Judge Garland a hearing and a vote."

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