WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday held firm on his refusal to act on President Barack Obama’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court even as some conservative activists called on senators to confirm Merrick Garland now that Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.
“The leader’s position has not changed on Garland,” McConnell spokesman David Popp told Reuters.
Since Obama nominated Garland in March, McConnell has refused to allow a confirmation vote, saying it should be up to the next president to fill the court’s vacancy left by the February death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia.
Some conservatives on Wednesday urged the Senate to confirm Garland, a centrist federal appeals court judge, now that Trump appears in line to win the Republican nomination for the Nov. 8 election. They are concerned Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton will defeat Trump in the election and pick a far more liberal nominee than Garland for a lifetime court appointment.
Other conservative voices urged McConnell to hold firm, saying that doing otherwise would alienate core Republican voters, hurting the party’s election chances in the fall.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, who backs McConnell’s hard-line stance, has refused to hold hearings on Garland’s nomination.
With his victory in Tuesday’s Indiana Republican primary, Trump solidified his position to land the party’s presidential nomination at its July convention in Cleveland. His closest challenger, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, quit the race after being drubbed in Indiana.
McConnell has repeatedly refused to say which Republican he supports for president. In an interview with Newsmax on Monday, before the Indiana vote, McConnell would say only that he intends to support the party’s nominee, “whomever that may be.”
Trump has said he would consult with the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank on possible Supreme Court nominees if he is elected president.
Leon Wolf of the conservative RedState website predicted that Republicans will lose the White House race in November with Trump as their nominee, and likely lose control of the Senate as well.
Wolf wrote in a blog post, “The choices, essentially, are to confirm Garland ... or watch as President Clinton nominates someone who is radically more leftist and 10-15 years younger” than the 63-year-old Garland.
But Erick Erickson, writing for the conservative website The Resurgent, said Republicans should “resist the temptation” because rushing to confirm Garland might “further depress Republican (voter) turnout” that is important to keeping the Senate under Republican control.
Reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Will Dunham