His political foes are leaping on Sen. Rob Portman’s decision to support holding off on filling the Supreme Court vacancy left by Justice Antonin Scalia’s death.
Portman, a Republican running for re-election, called for holding off on filling the vacancy until the next president is elected shortly after Scalia died last weekend in Texas.
After Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley indicated Tuesday that he would not hold hearings on Obama’s eventual nominee, Portman, in a conference call with reporters, backed the decision.
“There’s not going to be a hearing, but there will be an opportunity for the presidential candidates to talk about what kind of justice they would nominate,” he said.
Portman said it’s best for the country to delay. “I believe the best thing for the country would be to allow the American people to weigh in on this,” Portman said, arguing that the court can continue to do its work even with a 4-4 tie. On those cases, they will defer to the lower court.
Portman is not a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, nor is Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.
The Left-leaning group Senate Majority PAC launched a national digital advertising campaign targeting Portman and other Senate Republicans for supporting punting the replacement until the next president takes office. The ads will run for two weeks and target seven other Republican senators. The ad features a photo of Portman and the phrase, “Unprecedented Obstructionism: Putting Politics Over the People.”
Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland — one of three Democrats running to oppose Portman in November — said Portman’s stance “puts him wildly out of step with the values that Ohioans care about.”
“As more members of Senator Portman’s own party rightfully speak out against his position, his decision to put the broken and dysfunctional politics of D.C. over his duty to the people of Ohio becomes even more irresponsible,” he said.
Even Brown, D-Ohio, weighed in, though he wouldn’t comment on Portman or his political situation specifically.
“There’s no reason, there’s no precedent for stalling a nomination for an entire year for a political campaign or for political purposes,” Brown said Wednesday, saying the last time a Supreme Court seat was ever held vacant was during — and because of — the Civil War.
Not considering a nominee — and not even meeting with them — was “reprehensible,” Brown said.
A poll released Wednesday by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute found that 56 percent of voters believed that the Senate should consider whichever candidate Obama nominates, while 41 percent said it should be delayed until there’s a new president.
Among Republicans, 28 percent argued for considering a nominee now, and 70 percent argued for delaying until the next administration. Among Democrats, 85 percent were in favor of moving forward now and 12 percent were in favor of a delay. Fifty-eight percent of political independents, meanwhile argued for considering a nominee sooner rather than later.