Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley said he explained why that chamber won't be moving forward with a hearing for Judge Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court, during a "pleasant" breakfast on Tuesday.
The highly anticipated breakfast meeting between Grassley and Garland is part of the judicial nominee's tour of Capitol Hill as he works to convince lawmakers — especially reluctant Republicans— to consider his nomination. A Grassley spokesman said the meeting lasted a little over an hour this morning and the senator thanked the judge for his service.
Grassley has said the next president should make the appointment to the highest court.
Despite increasing pressure from Democrats and outside groups, the Iowa Republican has not wavered in his refusal to hold hearings for Garland until after Americans go to the polls in November.
"The Senate's power to withhold consent is as much a part of the Constitution as the president's power to nominate," Grassley wrote in an op-ed in the Des Moines Register Sunday. "The Senate's decision regarding the court vacancy is constitutional. It will help safeguard the integrity of the court. It's common sense. And, it's entirely American."
But Democrats disagree and are calling on Republicans to "do your job."
"Americans know of the Republicans unprecedented obstruction of President Obama's supreme court nominee Merrick Garland," Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said on the Senate floor Monday afternoon. "Chairman Grassley is running the least productive judicial committee since WWII measured by both judges reported out of committee and judges confirmed."
The Constitutional Responsibility Project organized a conference call with reporters Monday to encourage Grassley to change his opinion and hold hearings on Garland.
"The Republicans argue," Iowa Attorney General Democrat Tom Miller said, "because there is an election coming up next year, [confirmation] shouldn't happen during this year, the fourth year of the term. Well, I and the constitution disagree. He has that power during the whole four years. In a sense, what the Republicans are trying to do is rewrite the Constitution."
Keith Uhl, a former campaign aide and personal friend of the senator, even called on Grassley to fulfill his "obligation" to move forward with the nomination process.
"My position is to try to get Chuck Grassley to start representing Iowans again with Iowa values the way Iowans believe life should be lived through government officials and get away from this lowest common denominator of Republicans blaming the Democrats and Democrats blaming the Republicans about the way government works on many issues," Uhl told reporters.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is also steadfast that there will not be any movement on Garland until after November.
Six of the 15 Republican senators who have agreed to meet face-to-face with Garland will do so this week on Capitol Hill.
Only two - Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Illinois, and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, - have voiced support for holding public hearings.
"My meeting today with Judge Garland left me more convinced than ever that the process should proceed," Collins said following her talk with the judge last week. "Public hearings before the Judiciary Committee would allow that the issues that we explored in my office today to be further reviewed and analyzed by the Senate."
Sen. Kirk circulated a memo at the Senate Republicans' lunch last week encouraging more Republicans to meet with the nominee and sharing a little detail about their conversation.