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Washington • The White House on Monday stepped up its efforts to press Republican senators — specifically Utah's Orrin Hatch — to support a confirmation process to fill the late Associate Justice Antonin Scalia's seat on the Supreme Court.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest stressed to a group of regional reporters that the Constitution doesn't include an "exception" to avoid filling judicial vacancies during a presidential-election year, adding that in 1988 — one such year — a Democratic-led Senate confirmed Justice Anthony Kennedy who was nominated by President Ronald Reagan in 1987.

"It still does not" provide an exception, Earnest said. "It hasn't been amended in that time."

Last week, President Barack Obama pulled Hatch aside to court his support for holding hearings and a vote on a potential pick, though the Utah Republican remains steadfast in opposition to even meeting with an Obama nominee, let alone start the Senate vetting process.

The president has yet to name a nominee, but GOP members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have already said in a letter to the White House they would refuse to hold hearings because the vacancy comes during a raucous presidential election year.

Asked by The Salt Lake Tribune about White House efforts to press Hatch, Earnest noted that Hatch voted for Kennedy in 1988 during an election year and that the White House will continue to appeal to "senators' constitutional duty" to vote on judicial nominations.

"Senator Hatch over his long-term career has taken his constitutional duties quite seriously," Earnest said. "That's why the appeal that we can make to his sense of constitutional duty is a powerful one."

Hatch, though, has repeatedly said he won't meet with a nominee or support hearings.

"It's not about any individual person," Hatch told Fox News last week. "This is about whether or not we should confirm somebody in the throes of a very intense, and some people think horrific, presidential campaign."