There was a very short meeting in the Oval Office on Tuesday between President Obama and top senators to discuss filling the vacancy on the Supreme Court.
Harry Reid of Nevada, the Senate minority leader, said that the Republicans intended to wait for the next president to nominate a Supreme Court justice.
“They think they are going to wait and see what President Trump will do, I guess, as far as the nomination is concerned,” Reid said, referring to Donald Trump, the Republican presidential front-runner.
The meeting brought together six men who have rarely been accused of keeping their remarks brief. Besides Reid, Obama was joined by Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican majority leader, and Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, and Vice President Joe Biden.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
“We killed a lot of time talking about basketball and other stuff,” Reid said.
McConnell and Grassley did not diverge from their previously stated refusals to meet with or consider anyone nominated by Obama to fill Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat, according to the two Democratic senators who were there.
“All we want them to do is to fulfill their constitutional duty and do their job,” Reid said. “At this stage, they have decided not to do that.”
Republicans, who fear that an Obama nominee would tilt the balance of the court to the left for decades, say that Obama is a lame duck and that the next president should decide on a nominee. Obama, who has nearly 11 months left in office, has repeatedly said that it was his constitutional duty to select a nominee and that it was the job of the Senate to hold hearings.
The president asked both Republican senators if they had names they wanted him to consider in the nomination process, but neither offered any, Reid said.
“The Constitution makes it very clear that the president shall nominate and the Senate shall provide advice and consent,” Leahy said. “The president is ready to fulfill his constitutional duty. The Senate should fulfill theirs.”
Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, said that the president “felt it was important, even in an election year, to continue that consultation” with Congress about his decision to nominate someone to the Supreme Court.
Obama asked all those present for nominee recommendations, an offer “that was not a one-time only offer,” Earnest said. “The president is serious about this consultation.”
Earnest said that the president would continue to consider potential nominees.
In a speech on the Senate floor Monday, Reid heaped abuse on Grassley, saying he was abandoning his oath of office and abdicating his constitutional responsibilities.
“The chairman has turned the impartial reputation of the judiciary committee into an extension of the Trump campaign,” Reid said.
Grassley fired back: “It’s another day and another tantrum from the minority leader. But it doesn’t matter how much he jumps up and down and stomps his feet, we aren’t going to let the far left get away with denying the American people the opportunity to be heard.”