Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday flatly rejected any person President Barack Obama nominates to the Supreme Court following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, saying the voters should decide.
"I can now confidently say the view shared by virtually everyone in my conference is that the nomination should be made by the president who the people elect in the election that is underway right now," McConnell said.
"In short, there will not be action taken," he said.
Scalia, the court’s influential conservative, died in Texas on Feb. 13. Obama has said he intends to nominate a judge to take his place and expects the Senate to hold hearings and a vote to confirm the new justice, but Republicans say the next president should make the nomination.
McConnell made the comments on the same day that Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee sent a letter to the Senate leader saying no hearings will be held until Obama leaves office.
The Senate judiciary committee would have to hold hearings and the Senate would then vote on whether the judge should be confirmed under normal circumstances.
Democrats blasted the move as obstructionist and unprecedented. "Senator McConnell and the Republican leaders said point-blank they are not going to exercise their Constitutional responsibilities," Sen. Dick Durbin said. "This has never happened before — never ... and now, McConnell is going to have to wear the collar for it."
Also on Tuesday, Justice Samuel Alito said the high court will find a way to get its work done despite the 8-8 court.
"We will deal with it," Alito told a Georgetown University law school audience Tuesday after he was asked a question Republicans' plans to block anyone Obama nominates.
Cases before the court this term involve access to abortion, whether non-union state employees should have to pay union dues for contract negotiations, and an Obama policy to prevent the deportation of undocumented immigrants who have children who are U.S. citizens or lawful residents.
If the court splits 4-4, the decision of the lower court stands, but does not become nationwide precedent.
Alito avoided commenting on what type of judge should take Scalia’s place, saying that’s up to the president and Senate.
"I have enough trouble with the questions I have to decide," he said.