Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley on Thursday encouraged Supreme Court justices flirting with retirement to immediately step down, saying he would like to push through a nominee before the midterm elections.
“I just hope that if there is going to be a nominee, I hope it’s now or within two or three weeks, because we’ve got to get this done before the election,“ he told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt. “So my message to any one of the nine Supreme Court justices, if you’re thinking about quitting this year, do it yesterday.“
Grassley's blunt talk came as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is racing to fill a range of judicial vacancies with conservatives as a hedge against the chance that Republicans lose the Senate in November.
So far, one of President Donald Trump's signature domestic achievements has been the confirmation of Supreme Court justice Neil Gorsuch in April of last year. But Republicans were only able to install him after the Senate eliminated the 60-vote filibuster for high court nominees.
Prior to Gorsuch being confirmed, the Supreme Court seat was left vacant for a year after Republicans blocked President Barack Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016.
Grassley said there can be between 50 to 70 days from when the president nominates somebody to getting a hearing in the judiciary committee. It will take another two weeks to get to the floor, he added.
“This has to be done before the November election,” Grassley said.
Much attention has been on Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy, who has reportedly been considering retirement after roughly 30 years on the court. Kennedy has been a swing vote in many crucial cases, and his departure would give Trump the opportunity to craft a more solidly conservative Supreme Court.
Grassley on Thursday also praised White House legal counsel Don McGahn and how his team has worked with the Senate to help fill vacancies on the circuit court.
McGahn earlier this year was reportedly looking to step down from his position.
“Don McGahn is doing an excellent job. And I hope the president tells him every day that he appreciates the work that Don’s doing, because Don ought to be complimented every day for the hard work he and his staff is doing,” Grassley said.