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Grassley: Democrats Could Force a Vote on Nominee

Little-used maneuver could bring up consideration of Supreme Court appointment

Grassley, seen here with actor John Robinson as Ben Franklin, says Democrats could force a vote but they won't win. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Grassley, seen here with actor John Robinson as Ben Franklin, says Democrats could force a vote but they won't win. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

ROCK RAPIDS, Iowa — A top Republican senator said Monday he expects Democrats to force at least a procedural vote on President Barack Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, challenging the GOP’s insistence that the appointment be left for the next president.  

Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, said Democrats will likely try a maneuver known as a motion to discharge to move the nomination out of the committee and onto the Senate floor.  

“I don’t think that there’s any way Republicans can keep from having a vote … sometime between now and the election,” Grassley said at a town hall meeting in Iowa’s northwestern corner.  

“If [Republicans] think they’re going to avoid this issue entirely, under the rules of the Senate, it isn’t possible because of various motions that can be made,” he added.  

That doesn’t mean they’ll succeed in appointing Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland.  

The maneuver would subject to debate, thus setting off a procedural path that could require 60 votes to move forward. That vote count would be difficult for the 46-member Democratic caucus, but it could act as a test vote showing where senators stand on the nomination.  

Grassley said he sees no need to schedule a hearing since he expects such a measure to fail.  

“So what would be the point, if their discharge petition isn’t going to pass, what would be the point of having a hearing before you have the discharge petition?” he asked  

Democrats have so far not said if they are considering such a tactic, but on Monday the Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee sent a letter to their Republican colleagues suggesting a schedule for considering the nomination of Garland, who now serves as chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C.  

They suggested a Judiciary hearing starting April 27, a committee vote by May 12 and a floor vote by May 25 — a schedule they said was in keeping with consideration of past nominees.  

“Your refusal to consider his nomination would be an unprecedented break from the Senate’s history and would harm our constitutional democracy and undermine the Supreme Court’s ability to be our Nation’s final arbiter of the law,” they wrote.  

The letter came as Garland continued meeting with Senate Democrats about the nomination.  

Grassley responded to the letter Monday evening, pointing to Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s remarks in 1992 when, as a senator, he spoke out against considering nominations in a presidential election year.  

“It’s not fair to the country,” Grassley said, “it’s not fair to the Senate, it’s not fair to the Supreme Court, it’s not fair to the nominee to put the person, in the words that Biden used, in the cauldron of a presidential election year when things are so highly politicized that that takes priority over consideration.”  

Grassley faced several questions on the Supreme Court during his two town hall meetings in the northwest corner of the state. Groups such as, Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and Progress Iowa organized constituents to attend the town hall meeting to push Grassley to act on the nomination. But in the conservative part of the state, most of the meeting’s attendees supported Grassley’s position.  

One woman stood to push Grassley to “stand firm” and not take up Garland’s nomination.  

“I will,” he responded.  

Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.

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