Both of the Tennessee Republican senators have argued in the past that a president’s Supreme Court nominees should receive an up-or-down confirmation vote in the Senate and should not be subject to a filibuster, except in extraordinary circumstances.
But in statements released Monday by their offices, Alexander and Corker sided with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who has said the Senate should not consider a replacement for Scalia until after the November presidential election, even though Obama has said he intends to nominate someone to fill the vacancy.
“I believe it is reasonable to give the American people a voice by allowing the next president to fill this lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court,” said Alexander, a Maryville Republican. “Under our Constitution, the president has the right to nominate, but the Senate has the right to decide whether to consent at this point in a presidential election year.”
Corker, a Chattanooga Republican, made the same argument.
“The president has the right to nominate a Supreme Court justice, and the Constitution gives the Senate the power to decide whether to confirm the nominee,” he said. “But at this point I believe it would be more prudent to have the American people express their voice in deciding the future direction of our country.”
Scalia’s death of natural causes during a hunting trip in Texas on Saturday has set the stage for an election-year battle between the White House and Senate Republicans over who should nominate his replacement.
Obama has said he would submit a nominee to the Senate for confirmation “in due time.” But McConnell and other Republican leaders have pledged that they won’t confirm anyone Obama nominates.
Alexander said McConnell “is only doing what the Senate majority has the right to do and what Senate Democrat leaders have said they would do in similar circumstances.”
Asked whether that contradicts his previous statements that Supreme Court nominees should get an up-or-down vote, Alexander said, “If Sen. McConnell changes his mind and decides to bring a consensus nominee to the floor, I would consider him or her. If he does not, there is nothing to vote on.”