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GOP Leaders Double Down on Pledge to Block SCOTUS Pick

Congressional Republicans reiterated on Wednesday that they have no intention of taking any action on President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court pick.
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Congressional Republicans reiterated on Wednesday that they have no intention of taking any action on President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court pick — a defiant position that foreshadows a tense confirmation fight.

"It is the Senate’s constitutional right to act as a check on a president and withhold its consent,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday shortly after the president’s announcement.

Related: Obama Nominates Federal Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court

The president nominated Merrick Garland, a 63-year-old chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, to the Supreme Court on Wednesday. Garland has nearly two decades of judicial experience and was once the prosecutor who oversaw the Oklahoma City bombing and "Unabomber" terror cases.

Senate Republicans remained unimpressed with the president's move and have doubled down on their vow to take no action on Obama's pick. A fight has waged for weeks over naming a replacement for conservative Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, since his death in Texas last month.

McConnell restated the GOP's point on Wednesday.

"The decision the Senate announced weeks ago remains about a principle not a person," he said.

McConnell invoked what he said was Vice President Joe Biden's position when he served as the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman. At the time, then-Sen. Biden urged the Senate to put off considering a Supreme Court nominee until after the election.

"It seems clear that President Obama made this nomination not — not with the intent of seeing the nominee confirmed but in order to politicize it for purposes of the election," McConnell said on the Senate floor Wednesday.

The White House has said it is determined to press forward with the confirmation process.

"He is the right man for the job. He deserves to be confirmed," Obama said in the White House Rose Garden on Wednesday.

Democrats have begun their own efforts to pressure Republicans into considering the president’s nominee.

“I am optimistic that cooler heads will prevail, and sensible Republicans will provide Judge Garland with the fair treatment that a man of his stature and qualifications deserves,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said in a statement. “The American people expect their elected leaders to do their jobs. President Obama is performing his constitutional duty. I hope Senate Republicans will do theirs.”

Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vermont, the top ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee told NBC News on Wednesday that Republicans should “stop the games” and vote on the nomination. “Have the guts, the guts, to vote yes or no. What they want to do is vote 'maybe'. That is a gutless dereliction of the Constitution.”

The White House also launched a Twitter account to underscore its desire to ensure the nominee receives a hearing and a vote.

Many Republicans on Wednesday remained steadfast.

“While the President has the constitutional authority to make a nomination to fill this vacancy, the Senate also has the authority and responsibility to determine how to move forward with it. The next justice could change the ideological makeup of the Court for a generation, and fundamentally reshape American society in the process,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said in a statement.

“At this critical juncture in our nation's history, Texans and the American people deserve to have a say in the selection of the next lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. The only way to empower the American people and ensure they have a voice is for the next president to make the nomination to fill this vacancy.”

Related: Who Is Merrick Garland? Meet President Obama's Nominee to the Supreme Court

Appeals to lawmakers to do their "duty" and give the nominee a hearing seemed largely to be to no avail.

"One thing I know for sure is that if the shoe was on the other foot, the Democratic leadership would not even entertain such an appointment coming from a Republican president," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, said in a statement.

However, some Republicans facing tough re-election battles took a somewhat more circumspect stance.

"The Senate’s constitutionally defined role to provide advice and consent is as important as the president’s role in proposing a nominee, and I will assess Judge Merrick Garland based on his record and qualifications," Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Illinois who is facing a challenge from Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth this fall, said in a statement.

Others in a politically precarious position such as Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-New Hampshire, echoed the party's broader stance.

"I believe the American people deserve to have a voice in the direction of the court," she said in a statement. "I continue to believe the Senate should not move forward with the confirmation process until the people have spoken by electing a new president."

Still, the White House is hoping to change a few minds.

Shortly after the president named Garland as the nominee, the judge began phoning congressional lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Garland will also make the rounds on Capitol Hill to meet with senators ahead of a potential hearing.

In a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 55 percent of people polled said they would disapprove of the Senate not considering Obama's nominee.

McConnell said the best way to respect the electorate's wishes is to wait until after the general election this fall.

"The American people may well elect a president who decides to nominate Judge Garland for Senate consideration," McConnell said on the Senate floor. "The next president may also nominate somebody very different. Either way, our view is this: Give the people a voice in filling this vacancy."