Obama to press Republicans to fill Supreme Court vacancy at Tuesday meeting

WASHINGTON U.S. President Barack Obama will press Senate Republican leaders on Tuesday to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, despite Republican vows to not to act on anyone he nominates.

Obama is slated to speak at 11:30 a.m. EST (1630 GMT) with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Republican head of the Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley at the White House.

The president and Republican senators are at odds over whether Obama should select a replacement for Scalia in an election year.

Any pick by Obama must confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate. McConnell and Grassley have argued that the seat should remain vacant until Obama’s successor takes office next January, allowing the American people to have a say in the selection when they choose a new president in the Nov. 8 election.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Monday that Obama was committed to having a serious discussion with the lawmakers about his “constitutional responsibility” to appoint a successor to Scalia and how he would like to see the process play out.

“We’ll have to see if Republicans are also committed to that kind of serious conversation,” Earnest told reporters at a briefing. “Maybe they won’t be, and if they aren’t, then maybe it will be a shorter-than-expected meeting.”

Scalia’s death two weeks ago has rocked the U.S. political scene. Without Scalia, the court now has four conservative and four liberal justices, meaning that any potential Obama nominee could tip the balance of the court to the left for the first time in decades.

The Republican lawmakers said last week that they plan to reinforce their position at the White House meeting to wait until after the election to fill the vacancy.

“We look forward to reiterating to him directly that the American people will be heard and the next Supreme Court justice will be determined once the elections are complete and the next president has been sworn into office,” the pair said in a statement.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and the top Democrat on the Judiciary committee, Patrick Leahy, will also attend the White House meeting.

(Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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