Republican divide: Sessions, McConnell split over Supreme Court vacancy

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( – In apparently refusing to hold a confirmation hearing on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is “doing exactly what Harry Reid would do if he were in the majority at this time,” Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told Fox News’s Megyn Kelly Tuesday night.

“Mitch McConnell used to serve on the Judiciary Committee. He understands this completely. So we’re just not going to move this nominee because it’s going to allow the next president to fill this seat. It’s a decisive seat on the court,” Sessions said.

“We’ve lost a great conservative, brilliant justice that will be impossible really to replace, but so I think the American people will be able to elect someone and that person will get to make the nomination.”

In a statement released after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death on Saturday, McConnell said, “The American people‎ should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”

President Barack Obama told reporters on Tuesday, “There is more than enough time for the Senate to consider in a thoughtful way the record of a nominee that I present and to make a decision.”

But as a U.S. senator in 2006, Obama filibustered President George W. Bush’s nomination of Samuel Alito. Sessions said Obama, by now insisting on a confirmation vote, is being “totally hypocritical and inconsistent.”

At the White House on Wednesday, presidential spokesman Josh Earnest was asked about Obama’s filibuster of Alito. That was different, he said:

“I would draw an important distinction here. There is a difference between the president’s symbolic vote against President Bush’s Supreme Court nominee (Alito) and Republicans’ reflexive opposition to the idea of President Obama even nominating anybody to the Supreme Court,” Earnest said.

So it would be okay if Republicans filibuster Obama’s nominee? a reporter asked.

Earnest noted that when then-Sen. Obama filibustered in 2006, “he noted that the filibuster effort was not likely to succeed and that then-Judge Alito was likely to be confirmed. And that reflects the responsibility of the institution of the United States Senate.”

Earnest also said Obama’s objections to Alito “were based in substance.”

“So, look — I — as the president alluded to yesterday, he regrets the vote that he made because, frankly, I mean, as we’ve discussed, Democrats should have been in a position where they were making a public case. That’s what Democrats should have done. And they shouldn’t have looked for a way just to throw sand in the gears of the process.

“And frankly, looking back on it, the president believes that he should have just followed his own advice and made a strong public case on the merits about his opposition to the nomination that President Bush had put forward.”

— Written by Susan Jones