McConnell: Senate won't consider Garland nomination

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday the Senate will not consider President Barack Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.

Obama did it "not with the intent of seeing the nominee confirmed, but in order to politicize it for the purpose of the election," the Kentucky Republican said.

He also said the Senate will "revisit" the matter when the next president nominates someone, adding that the people should have a say in who fills the currently vacant seat. "The American people may well elect a president who decides to nominate Judge Garland for Senate consideration. The next president may also nominate somebody very different," McConnell said.

Senate Republicans have vowed not to hold confirmation hearings or a vote on any nominee picked by the Democratic president for the lifetime position on the court. Senate confirmation is required for any nominee to join the bench.

Earlier Wednesday, Obama announced that he had selected Garland to fill the vacancy left by the Feb. 13 death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia.

"Of the many powers and responsibilities that the Constitution invests in the presidency, few are more consequential than appointing a Supreme Court justice," Obama said at the White House Rose Garden. "The men and women who sit on the Supreme Court are the final arbiters of American law."

"This is not a responsibility I take lightly."

Obama was looking for someone who could persuade the Republicans to drop their vows to block any nomination by the lame duck president. Garland, 63, has a moderate record, was a federal prosecutor who oversaw the Oklahoma City bombing case and has a history of drawing Republican support.

"Over my seven years as president, in all my conversations with senator of both parties, ... the one name that has come up repeatedly, from Republicans and Democrats alike, is Merrick Garland," Obama said. "To suggest that someone as qualified and respected as Merrick Garland doesn't even deserve a hearing, let alone an up or down vote, to join an institution as important as the Supreme Court, ... that would be unprecedented."

Garland, 63, is the chief judge on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

"For me there could be no higher service than serving as a member of the United States Supreme Court," Garland said.

Garland was appointed to the appellate court by Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1997, winning confirmation in a 76-23 vote. Prior to that, he served in the Justice Department during the Clinton administration.

Garland was under consideration in 2009 for Obama's first appointment but the president chose Sonia Sotomayor.

In recent decades, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has been a springboard to the Supreme Court for several justices, including Scalia.

Without Scalia, the nine-member Supreme Court is evenly split with four liberals and four conservative justices. Obama's nominee could tilt the court to the left for the first time in decades.

Republicans, hoping a candidate from their party wins the Nov. 8 presidential election, want the next president, who takes office in January, to make the selection.

GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump, speaking on ABC's "Good Morning America" program, said it was critical for Republicans to take back the White House to avoid Democrats shaping the Supreme Court.

"You have four Supreme Court judgeships coming up, and that would mean they would take over, that would mean for 50 years, probably, this country will never be the same," Trump said.

"The Republicans should do exactly what they are doing. I think they should wait till the next president and let the next president pick," Trump said.

Republicans and their allies already have geared up to fight Obama's nominee. Republican National Committee on Monday announced the formation of a task force that will work with an outside conservative group to spearhead attack ads and other ways of pushing back against Obama's choice.

Sri Srinivasan, who also serves on the D.C. appellate court, was a finalist for the nomination, a source familiar with the selection process told Reuters.

— Reuters contributed to this report.