Pennsylvania

Sen. Pat Toomey Wants to Block President Barack Obama From Nominating Supreme Court Justice, Do You Agree?

A conservative political action group is praising U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey for his stance that the next Supreme Court nominee should not be decided by President Barack Obama.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvanians are debating the senator's stance.

Judicial Crisis Network posted "Toomey: Let the People Decide" to YouTube on Thursday and began running a television ad Sunday.

The ad, featuring various people, has a voice-over that says, "the Supreme Court has a vacancy and your vote in November is your only voice. Senator Pat Toomey agrees, the American people should decide."

Toomey agrees. He told the Associated Press it might be better to not hold election-year confirmation hearings because senators would be weighing more than just a nominee's qualifications. He and other Republicans would also consider how a nominee from the Democratic president would change the court's balance in his favor before a new president takes office, Toomey said.

"It's very unlikely that any nominee, however well qualified, could reach the level that would be necessary to satisfy both sets of criteria," Toomey told the AP. "And for that reason, it might be just as well not to have a hearing that would, sort of, might mislead the American people into thinking that this is just about the qualifications of the candidate, because it's bigger than that."

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Toomey, who is running for a second term in the swing-state seat, backed Senate GOP Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) earlier this week in arguing that a nominee for Justice Antonin Scalia's seat is best left to the next president. That stance has brought a barrage of criticism from Democrats and Pennsylvania newspaper editorial boards. One Democrat running for the party's Senate nomination, Joe Sestak, accused Toomey on Thursday of "marching lockstep with partisan obstructionists in Washington, D.C."

"I think the question before us now is ... should the outgoing president fundamentally change the balance of the court for the next one or two generations?" Toomey said. "I don't think that's reasonable. I think that it's more reasonable for the American people to have a more direct say in that process, which they will do through the election of the president knowing now with certainty that the next president is going to make this really important pick."

If an Obama nominee comes to a vote, Toomey would oppose the nominee, he said, barring an unlikely Obama decision to nominate someone in Scalia's philosophical mold who would not change the court's balance. One fear, Toomey said, is that the court with a new Obama nominee might become less willing to block Obama from exceeding his legal or constitutional authority.

"The president intends to change the balance of the court and I am not going to support him changing the balance of the court with nine months before an election, I'm not going to do that," Toomey said.

Toomey would not say whether he would apply the same election-year logic in a hypothetical situation where a Republican president sought to fill a vacancy or Obama sought to replace a liberal justice. He said he would address each situation as it arises, but, he said, "this one I think is very clear."

Toomey didn't return NBC10's request for further comment, nor did JCN.

The ad isn't specific to the first-term Pennsylvanian Republican who is running for re-election in the fall. JCN also made similar ads geared toward constituents thanking other Republican senators including former presidential candidate John McCain (Ariz.) and McConnell.

Raleigh, North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling said that a poll of 859 Pennsylvanians found that about three-quarters of respondents felt that the Senate should wait to see who is nominated before deciding whether or not to confirm that person. The survey found that voters want someone to get a fair chance in the Republican-controlled senate to replace Justice Scalia before the end of the year, said PPP.

A non-scientific PoliticsPA poll found a majority of readers agreed with Toomey's stance. The Toomey campaign told Politics PA that the PPP poll was "a phony poll by a Democratic outfit for a far left advocacy group. Ask Pennsylvanians if it’s reasonable to let the people have a say over the future direction of the Supreme Court, and they say it is.”

Should an Obama nominee fail in the Senate, the court would operate with just eight members at least until the next president takes office in January and puts forward a nominee. Toomey said he was not particularly concerned about the court operating with a vacancy in the meantime.

"It's not that big a deal," Toomey said.

The vast majority of high court decisions do not require a tie-breaking ninth vote and the court will make only a few decisions the rest of the year, Toomey said. Plus, an evenly divided court simply means a lower court decision stands in a case and a nine-justice court can always choose to revisit the matter in 2017, he said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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