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US Senate leader refuses to consider Obama supreme court pick

© The US Capitol as seen from the US Supreme Court at dusk February 13, 2016 in Washington, DC.

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2016-02-24

US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday said the Republican-led chamber will refuse to consider anyone President Barack Obama nominates to become a Supreme Court justice.

Citing "overwhelming" consensus among Senate Republicans that the next president, who will take office in January 2017, should select a replacement for the late Justice Antonin Scalia, McConnell told reporters there will be "no action taken" on Obama's choice.

In a letter to McConnell, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee wrote that they wanted "to ensure the American people are not deprived of the opportunity to engage in a full and robust debate over the type of jurist they wish to decide some of the most critical issues of our time".

McConnell also said that he would not even "be inclined" to meet with whomever Obama picks to replace Scalia.

Scalia's death on February 13 ignited a major fight in Washington over whether Obama should be able to replace him in a presidential election year. He was only dead a few hours when McConnell announced that he would oppose replacing him before the election.

The Republicans' action is certain to have repercussions, not only in the presidential race but in congressional contests where vulnerable Senate incumbents in Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire face tough Democratic challengers. At least one of those senators, Republican Mark Kirk of Illinois, has suggested holding hearings.

But Republican members of the committee met with McConnell and emerged with a simple message. "No hearing, no vote," said Senator Lindsey Graham.

Confirmation hearings for a Supreme Court nominee are the most high-profile in the Senate, and any session is certain to be a spectacle. Among the members of the panel is Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, who has vowed to block any nominee.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said it was "absolutely" still possible for the Senate to hold hearings, pointing to a handful of Republicans who had expressed a willingness, including Kirk, Susan Collins of Maine, Dan Coats of Indiana and Roy Blunt of Missouri.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AP)

Date created : 2016-02-23

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