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Seeking to end a Supreme Court confirmation fight before it begins, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee vowed Tuesday to delay any hearings until a new president is inaugurated.
Utah Sens. Orrin Hatch, a former committee chairman, and Mike Lee were also among a group of key senators who said they wouldn't even meet with President Barack Obama's yet-to-be-named nominee to replace the late Antonin Scalia.
"What would be the point?" said Lee's spokesman Conn Carroll.
This is a shift in strategy for Hatch. When he paid his annual visit to the Utah Legislature last week, he said he would meet with the nominee.
"They'll come and visit with me, whoever the nominees are, and I will treat them with great respect," he said, according to KUER.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also said he wouldn't sit down with the nominee.
The move to block any consideration is unprecedented, the Senate historian told CNN. The Senate hasn't refused to hold hearings since they became a regular part of the process roughly 50 years ago. Democrats are angrily accusing the majority party of blatant political obstructionism.
But the Republicans argue it makes more sense for a new president to fill the vacancy rather than a lame-duck Obama. They also noted the Constitution gives the Senate the right to sign off on the president's selection.
"Nowhere in that document does it say the Senate has a duty to give the presidential nominees a vote. It says appointments shall be made with the advice and consent of the Senate. That is very different than saying every nominee receives a vote," said a letter signed by all 11 Republican members of the Judiciary Committee, including Hatch and Lee.
Previously Utah's senators said they believed the Senate should hold off until a new president takes office.
Every Supreme Court nomination is a high-stakes affair, but Scalia's death he died in his sleep while on a hunting trip to Texas creates a once-in-a-generation chance to change the philosophical balance of the institution.
The court has long had a conservative majority of 5 to 4. An Obama nominee would likely shift the balance to the liberals.
Republicans are hoping that their eventual candidate can reclaim the White House and pick a more conservative justice. They worry that meeting with the nominee or holding hearings could create momentum to force a confirmation vote.