Senate leaders trade barbed words over Supreme Court


WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate battle over Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee is off to a fiery start – even before the president makes his choice. Republican and Democratic leaders traded accusations and barbed comments today on the new vacancy, abortion rights and the debate to come.

Both sides are quickly mobilizing after Justice Anthony Kennedy, whose votes have been key in deciding cases on abortion, affirmative action, gay rights, guns, campaign finance and voting rights, sent shock waves through Washington on Wednesday by announcing his retirement plans.

Republicans are pressing for speedy action – assuming Trump makes a quick announcement of his pick – but Democrats argue that the confirmation action should be put on hold until after the November midterm elections.

The Democrats are citing Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell's successful block of President Barack Obama's nominee to the court, Merrick Garland, in 2016. Republicans argued the seat should be left open because it was a presidential election year.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said today it would be the "height of hypocrisy" to vote before this year's election on Trump's nominee.

"If the Senate's constitutional duty to advise and consent is just as important as the president's right to nominate, which the Constitution says it is, why should a midterm election be any less important that a presidential election?" Schumer said.

Majority Leader McConnell, R-Ky., fired back, saying the situations are not the same.

"This is not 2016. There aren't the final months of a second-term constitutionally lame-duck presidency with a presidential election fast approaching. We're right in the middle of this president's very first term," McConnell said

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