WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Pat Toomey on Wednesday became the latest Republican senator to say he’ll meet with President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, but said he’ll tell him the Senate won’t fill the vacancy until a new president is elected.
Toomey, R-Pa., is at least the ninth GOP senator to say they will meet with Merrick Garland or have indicated an openness to it. Six of them face re-election in November, including Toomey.
Led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, most Republicans say the late Justice Antonin Scalia won’t be replaced until the next president picks a nominee.
Some including McConnell have said they won’t even meet with Garland, though the two men spoke by telephone last week. Garland is chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Democrats say they believe Republicans will have to succumb to public pressure and agree to hold Judiciary committee hearings and a full Senate vote on Garland or face election losses that would cost them majority control of the chamber.
In a written statement, Toomey said he’d agreed to a White House request to meet Garland “out of courtesy and respect for both the president and the judge.”
Toomey said he will tell Garland that Scalia’s seat will remain unfilled “until after the American people weigh in and select a new president, and I believe that is the best approach for deciding whether to alter the balance of the Supreme Court.”
Scalia’s death left four liberal-leaning justices and four conservative ones.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said on the Maine Public Broadcasting Network on Wednesday that she would meet with Garland when the Senate returns from recess in early April.
Collins is one of a small number of Republicans who want the Judiciary committee to hold its customary hearings on the nominee, which Grassley has said he will not do. Collins said she hopes that after GOP senators meet with Garland, “perhaps there will be a shift” in Grassley’s position.
Garland met Wednesday with Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., the fifth Senate Democrat he’s seen since his nomination.
Though Garland’s quest for confirmation seems uphill, Klobuchar said she doesn’t think he would go through the process “if he didn’t want the job and didn’t think it was a reality that he could get the job.”
AP reporter David Sharp in Portland, Maine, contributed to his report.