Cracks are beginning to form in the wall of resistance Republican senators built to deflect any Supreme Court nominees made by President Obama to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
Two have possibly defected as of Monday — Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.
Kirk’s decision to break from GOP ranks comes as an act of political survival in a year when he’s seeking re-election. The Chicago Tribune described Kirk as “perhaps the most politically vulnerable of incumbent Republicans nationally,” and he wants to be viewed as someone who can work with those across the aisle.
“I recognize the right of the president, be it Republican or Democrat, to place before the Senate a nominee for the Supreme Court and I fully expect and look forward to President Barack Obama advancing a nominee for the Senate to consider,” Kirk wrote in a Chicago Sun-Times commentary.
“I also recognize my duty as a senator to either vote in support or opposition to that nominee following a fair and thorough hearing along with a complete and transparent release of all requested information. The Senate’s role in providing advice and consent is as important and significant as the president’s role in proposing a nominee,” he continued.
Kirk hinted at his decision shortly after Scalia’s death when he referred to the political maneuvering over the vacancy as being “unseemly” in a statement.
Kirk, however, warned the president that “a partisan or extreme nominee would not be prudent nor would it provide a steady, scholarly hand to guide the constitutional ship of state.”
Collins has always been something of an odd duck in the GOP, having sided with the Democrats on numerous occasions including other Obama Supreme Court nominees, and this is just more of the same.
“I think the obligation of the Senate is to carefully consider any nominee whom the president submits,” she told the press. “The best way to do that, in my judgement, is public hearings.”
“For my part, it’s clear that the President can send up a nominee — regardless of where he is before he leaves office,” she told CNN. “It is the duty of the Senate, under the Constitution, to give our advice and give our consent or withhold our consent. I believe we should follow the regular order and give careful consideration to any nominee that the president may send to the Senate.”
Other GOP senators:
Supreme Court nominees must first be approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee before they may be considered by the full Senate. Last week, committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa indicated that he was open to hearings when he said “the kind of thorough process that a hearing allows is the best way to evaluate a nominee.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has remained steadfast on the issue that Scalia’s chair should remain vacant until a new president is sworn into office.
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