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Washington • Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee say they will vet whomever the next president be that Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton appoints to the Supreme Court and not seek to automatically block a Clinton nominee as a fellow GOP senator suggested this week.
Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican locked in a tough re-election battle, told WPHT-AM radio in Philadelphia that he, and other GOP senators, would block any nominees from Clinton should she win the White House.
"I promise you that we will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put up," McCain said.
His office later walked back the comment, according to NPR, saying that McCain "will, of course, thoroughly examine the record of any Supreme Court nominee put before the Senate and vote for or against that individual based on their qualifications."
McCain's initial comments are contrary to tradition that all Supreme Court nominees are vetted by the Senate and face hearings and a confirmation vote. The GOP-led Senate broke with that tradition this year after the death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia by refusing to hold hearings on President Barack Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland.
Hatch, Lee and McCain have said the Senate should not hold hearings on Garland until after the Nov. 8 election.
Asked Tuesday if Lee backs McCain's original statement about blocking all Clinton nominees should she win, the Utah Republican said the Senate will vet the next president's choice.
"Of course we will look at anyone who might be nominated by the next president," Lee said in a statement. "Whether that nominee will be confirmed is an entirely different question one that can't be answered in the abstract."
Trump has included Lee and his brother Thomas Lee, associate chief justice of the Utah Supreme Court, on his short list of potential high-court nominees.
For his part, Hatch the former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee who has long held he will vote for a nominee unless that person is unqualified for the job will look at any appointment, especially if Clinton is elected, according to Rob Porter, his chief of staff.
"Senator Hatch takes seriously his responsibility to evaluate each nomination carefully, especially for the Supreme Court," Porter said. "Close scrutiny of any future Hillary Clinton nominee will be particularly critical since she has advocated shifting the court to the left and has a history of politicizing judicial matters, including having voted 23 times as a senator to filibuster qualified Republican nominees."