WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama said Wednesday it would be “difficult” for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to explain his decision not to consider a Supreme Court nominee without looking like he’s motivated by politics.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid suggested a Republican, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, as a potential nominee. A source confirmed to CNN that the White House is vetting Sandoval, although he has not been actively involved in the process.
“Neither Governor Sandoval nor his staff have been contacted by or talked to the Obama Administration regarding any potential vetting for the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court,” according to a statement from Mari St. Martin, his communications director.
Sandoval is seen as a centrist GOP governor, who has said he agrees with the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage, but has also found himself facing the opposition of Nevada labor unions.
Obama’s pointed remarks and Reid’s unconventional suggestion come amid a bitter standoff between Senate Republicans and the White House over naming a Supreme Court replacement for Justice Antonin Scalia, whose death this month launched an epic election-year fight over constitutional powers and precedent.
“I recognize the politics are hard for them because the easier thing to do is to give in to the most extreme voices within their party and stand pat and do nothing,” Obama said. “But that’s not our job. Our job is to fulfill our constitutional duties.”
Claiming he felt sympathy for Republican lawmakers making “sheepish” arguments for blocking his court choice, Obama insisted he would “nominate somebody and let the American people decide as to whether that person is qualified.”