N.H.’s Ayotte agrees to meet with Obama’s high court pick
By NBP Staff | April 4, 2016, 17:31 EDT
WASHINGTON – New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a Republican fighting for re-election against her state’s Democratic governor, became the latest GOP Senator to agree to meet with President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, bucking the party leadership’s stance.
Ayotte, a first-term senator from Nashua, has faced withering criticism from liberal advocates and Granite State Gov. Maggie Hassan for refusing to give Judge Merrick Garland a Senate hearing. On Monday, she announced a plan to meet with the jurist next week.
“This is a lifetime appointment that will have a significant impact on our country for decades to come,” Ayotte said in a statement posted on her Senate website. “I will meet with the president’s nominee out of courtesy and respect, and I also plan to explain my view that the people should have a voice in this important nomination through their votes in November.”
Ayotte’s move also comes less than a month after a fellow Republican, former New Hampshire state senator Jim Rubens said he would challenge her for the nomination to the senate post. He has claimed that she has become part of the Washington “establishment” and no longer represents the views of conservative constituents. Rubens previously ran for the GOP nomination to a Senate seat, losing to Scott Brown, the former senator from Massachusetts.
His challenge from the right may weaken Ayotte, assuming she survives, heading into a general election matchup with Hassan, the popular two-term governor.
Senate Republicans, led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, insist that the decision on filling the court vacancy rests with the next president after voters have their say in November’s election, according to the Associated Press. But previously, two senators bucked McConnell, including Susan Collins of Maine and John Boozman of Arkansas said they would meet with Garland this week, and a fourth has already met with the judge.
Illinois Republican Sen. Mark Kirk, embroiled in a difficult re-election fight, met with the judge and has said the Senate should provide “rational, adult, open-minded consideration” of Garland, an Illinois native.
Eager to keep the fight in the news, Democrats say there might be 50 more Garland meetings with senators in the coming weeks, and they plan repeated Senate floor speeches on the issue. At least 15 GOP senators have said they are willing to meet Garland, AP reported, though most oppose letting the confirmation process progress.