ESTHERVILLE, Iowa — Hillary Clinton attacked Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley for refusing to hold hearings on President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, elevating the clash over the court to the top of the presidential campaign.
In a speech Monday at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, the former secretary of state singled out the Iowa Republican, who has been steadfast in his opposition to holding hearings for Merrick Garland, the centrist chief judge of a U.S. appeals court whom Obama nominated earlier this month.
Grassley has the authority to schedule a hearing on a Supreme Court nominee, but he has said Americans “shouldn’t be denied a voice” by moving before a new president is elected.
“Well, as one of the more than 65 million Americans who voted to reelect Barack Obama, I’d say my voice is being ignored right now because of their obstructionism. We chose a president. We chose him twice,” Clinton said. “And now, Republicans in the Senate are acting like our votes didn’t count and that President Obama is not still our nation’s leader. Those are not high-minded principles. They are low-minded politics.”
Grassley should “step up and do his job,” she added. “He should hold a hearing, and he should schedule it as soon as the Senate returns from recess.”
After Antonin Scalia’s death in February, Senate Republican leaders immediately called for consideration of the replacement for the conservative justice to be punted into the next administration. And GOP senators, including Grassley, have shown no signs of budging from that stance since Obama nominated Garland on March 16.
The brewing battle between the White House and Congress has gotten prominent play in the news, given its potential to swing the ideological makeup of the court. It’s received less attention in the presidential campaign — until Clinton’s speech. The former secretary of state dispelled any doubt that she’d make the nomination of Garland — who has a more moderate profile than the base of her party would prefer — part of her message to voters.
“If you do stop and think about this, the court shapes virtually every aspect of life in the United States,” she said. From “whether you can marry the person you love, to whether you can get health care, to whether your classmates can carry guns around this campus.”
Clinton named Grassley in her speech, but her remarks were aimed broadly at Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. Indeed, she delivered a scathing critique of the Republican presidential contest, calling Trump’s success a manifestation of the party’s increasingly extreme politics in recent years.
When elements of the GOP were willing to shut down the government to make a point about Obamacare and question the citizenship of Obama, Clinton said, it’s not surprising that its presidential front-runner is now calling for a ban on Muslim immigrants and removing millions of illegal immigrants.
“Once you make the extreme normal, you open the door to even worse,” Clinton said. “Enough is enough. It’s time for us to take a stand.”
“There’s a fight over whether President Obama should nominate a replacement, as the Constitution requires, and that fight is revealing the worst of our politics,” Clinton also said. “The same obstructionism that we’ve seen from Republicans since the beginning of the Obama administration. The same disregard for the rule of law that’s given rise to the extremist candidacies of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. It’s corroding our democracy, and it has to stop.”
Grassley preemptively responded to Clinton’s remarks Monday afternoon, invoking the ongoing FBI investigation into her private email server during her tenure at the State Department.
“With all the troubles she’s getting on email, and the FBI’s going to question her, I would imagine she’d want to change the tone of her campaign,” Grassley told POLITICO, referring to a Los Angeles Times report indicating the bureau would commence the final phase of its investigation into the private email server by interviewing her advisers.
Grassley, who led the Senate’s investigation into the private server, insisted Clinton’s remarks would have no effect on his position and suggested hearing them would be a waste of time.
“I want to spend my time on doing things we’re going to accomplish, and you know ahead of time that this isn’t going to be approved,” Grassley said of Garland’s nomination. “So spend your time on things that … we can do in a bipartisan way instead of in a partisan way.”
Clinton has said Obama fulfilled his constitutional responsibility to name a nominee and called on the upper chamber to do its job, adding that such a serious issue shouldn’t be just “an exercise in political brinkmanship and partisan posturing.”
She repeatedly slammed Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson and sang the praises of his challenger, former Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold. The two are locked in one of the most competitive Senate races this year.
“Email him, contact him, if he has a Facebook page, go on and express your opinion,” Clinton said of Johnson. “Tell him to stop playing games with the Supreme Court, and remember this in November when you choose who stands for you in the Senate.”
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