Grassley: No hearings on Supreme Court nominee this year
Anamosa stop completes 99-county tour
James Q. Lynch
ANAMOSA — Sen. Chuck Grassley firmly rebutted reports he might hold confirmation hearings on President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee before the end of the year.
“My position has not changed. The new president should make the appointment,” Grassley said in Anamosa where he completed what has come to be known as the “Full Grassley.” He has visited all 99 counties every year since being elected to the Senate in 1980. The Jones County meeting was his 99th this year.
The first question he fielded Thursday was about comments he made in Sioux City earlier this week indicating he would hold confirmation hearings on Merrick Garland if a large number of senators encouraged him to consider the nomination during the lame-duck session following the Nov. 8 election.
“Somebody asked me to speculate … I probably should not speculate,” Grassley said told Kathy Ulrich, a Linn County Democrat who was among about 90 people at the town-hall meeting.
As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Grassley wrote to colleagues 10 days after Justice Antonin Scalia died Feb. 13 to say that he would honor a longtime understanding among senators that Supreme Court vacancies in the final year of a president’s term would not be filled until voters could give senators some direction through the ballot box.
“I am saying that the letter I sent on Feb. 23 saying people should have a voice and the new president should make the selection has always been my position,” Grassley said. “Anything said beyond that was said because people asked me to speculate. Well, maybe people in office shouldn’t be speculating.”
He wouldn’t speculate on whether Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell might change his position on delaying confirmation hearings until there is a new president.
Ulrich wasn’t the only one with an opinion on the Supreme Court vacancy.
Charles Summers of Jones County thanked Grassley for “sticking to your guns on the judges.”
“A president on his way out shouldn’t be able to nominate a judge on his way in,” he said.
Janae Stracke of Concerned Women for America, who was sporting an “I stand with Grassley” sticker, thanked him “wholeheartedly (because) we don’t need a Supreme Court full of judicial activists as we have been seeing.”
“We need to make sure Justice Scalia’s position is filled with a strict constitutionalist.” she said. As a millennial, Stracke said she understands the next justice will affect her and her children for years to come.
Many people who disagree with him think his decision to delay confirmation hearings “is about the next four years,” Grassley said. “But in the case of the Supreme Court, it’s about the direction of the Supreme Court for the next 40 years.”
During the hourlong meeting, Grassley fielded questions and comments about members of Congress holding themselves to a different standard than what’s expected of other citizens, Pentagon spending, legalizing cannabidiol oil, Zika funding, Veterans Affairs, climate change, bipartisanship in Congress and federal policies limiting the practice of Christianity.
The top 10 topics that have come up in Sen. Chuck Grassley’s county meetings this year, based on his staff’s review of the Iowa Republican’s Twitter posts are:
Department of Veterans Affairs
Waters of the U.S.