Sen. Angus King (I., Maine), who caucuses with Senate Democrats, said Wednesday that President Obama made the wrong decision in supporting a 2006 filibuster of Justice Samuel Alito to block his confirmation vote to the Supreme Court.
King’s comment comes as the president and Democratic lawmakers criticize Senate Republicans for refusing to hold hearings for Judge Merrick Garland, Obama’s nominee to fill the Supreme Court seat of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, until after the 2016 presidential election.
King appeared on MSNBC with host Steve Kornacki, who noted that Republicans often cite Obama’s attempt in 2006, along with 23 other Democratic senators, to block Alito from being considered for a vote.
"They didn’t want to have a vote on the nomination, let alone be against Alito going to the Supreme Court," Kornacki said. "Would it help here if the president came out and made a more fulsome statement than he’s made about his role in what’s happened over the last generation on Capitol Hill, over how these nominations and how judicial nominations, in general, are treated? Is there a role here for the president to own up to a little bit more of what his role was with that moment?"
"If that’s what Barack Obama, senator, said ten years ago, I don’t think that that was the right position," King said as part of his response. "He had a constitutional responsibility to put a nominee forward, and it’s now our job to meet our constitutional responsibility."
King also noted that Alito was ultimately confirmed despite opposition from Democrats.
The Maine senator met with Garland on Wednesday morning and said he was impressed with the judge, arguing the Senate should hold hearings so the American people can have a say in the confirmation process.
Senate Republicans note that it is unprecedented for someone to be nominated and considered for the Supreme Court in the last year of a presidency, adding that the replacement process should wait until after the election so voters can make their will known. Republicans have also pointed out that Vice President Joe Biden in 1992 and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) in 2007 advocated for the Senate to delay filling any Supreme Court openings until after the next presidential election.
Obama has expressed regret for supporting the Alito filibuster in the past.