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Washington • President Barack Obama privately courted Sen. Orrin Hatch this week to support a confirmation process for a would-be Supreme Court nominee.
The Utah Republican, though, remains steadfast against holding hearings or even meeting with a prospective nominee, his office says.
Hatch was at the White House on Wednesday as the president signed the Trade Enforcement Act, which Hatch authored, and Obama took him aside afterward to press the senior Republican senator and former Judiciary Committee chairman of the duty to fill the late Associate Justice Antonin Scalia's seat.
"The president affirmed his commitment to name an individual to the bench who is eminently qualified and deserving of a thorough and fair confirmation process by the Senate," a White House official told The Salt Lake Tribune. "He told Senator Hatch that he looks forward to continued consultations with him, and others, as this process continues."
Hatch's office confirmed the two spoke but that the senator remains convinced the next president should name Scalia's replacement.
Hatch told Fox News that the president was "very charming" in their exchange and said he would find a court nominee who would be "very moderate." Hatch said he was unswayed.
"It's not about any individual person," Hatch told Fox News. "This is about whether or not we should confirm somebody in the throes of a very intense, and some people think horrific, presidential campaign."
Hatch, and his Utah GOP colleague Mike Lee, joined all of the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee in a letter saying they would oppose any hearings for a nominee from President Obama. They said the Constitution gives them the right to vet nominees but does not require them to do so.
"Nowhere in that document does it say the Senate has a duty to give the presidential nominees a vote," the letter said. "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."
Lee also took to the Senate floor on Wednesday to combat claims by Democrats that GOP members were being obstructionists.
"Some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle and many in the media have resorted to all manner of counterarguments, ranging from the historically and constitutionally inaccurate to the absurd," Lee said. "And in many cases, the claims made by my Democratic colleagues today flatly contradict their own statements from the past."
Lee added that there was nothing "unprecedented or improper" for the Senate to withhold its consent.
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid on Thursday called on his GOP counterparts to "do your job" and take up a Supreme Court nomination.
"By refusing to hold confirmation hearings for President Obama's Supreme Court nominee, or hold a vote, they undermine the presidency, the Constitution and the United States Senate," Reid said on the Senate floor. "By refusing to even sit and talk with any nominee, they make a mockery of the office to which the American people elected them."
Obama has said he will name a nominee and is reportedly eyeing Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, a moderate Republican and former federal judge, but Sandoval on Thursday said he did not want to be considered for the post.