US Senate's McConnell rules out action this year on high court

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WASHINGTON, March 20 (Reuters) - Republican U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Sunday ruled out Senate confirmation of Democratic President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee this year, even if after the November election it appears the next president may pick a liberal who Republicans would like even less.

In television interviews, McConnell said Republican senators had no intention of confirming Democrat Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland, even if Democrats win the White House in November, putting them in the position to nominate someone more liberal than Garland when the new president takes office in January.

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"I can't imagine that a Republican-majority Congress, in a lame-duck session, after the American people have spoken (in the election), would want to confirm (Garland)," McConnell told CNN.

"That's not going to happen," McConnell told Fox News on Sunday. "The principle is the same, whether it's before the election or after the election. The principle is the American people are choosing their next president and their next president should pick this Supreme Court nominee."

Nominees to the lifetime Supreme Court post require Senate confirmation. But McConnell says the Republican-run Senate will not hold a hearing or a vote on Garland.

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US Senate's McConnell rules out action this year on high court
Federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland, stands with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden as he is introduced as Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court during an announcement in the Rose Garden of the White House, in Washington, Wednesday, March 16, 2016. Garland, 63, is the chief judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, a court whose influence over federal policy and national security matters has made it a proving ground for potential Supreme Court justices. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland, right, shakes hands with with President Barack Obama as Vice President Joe Biden looks on as he is introduced as Obamaâs nominee for the Supreme Court during an announcement in the Rose Garden of the White House, on Wednesday, March 16, 2016, in Washington. Garland, 63, is the chief judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, a court whose influence over federal policy and national security matters has made it a proving ground for potential Supreme Court justices. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland, right, stands with President Barack Obama as he is introduced as Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court during an announcement in the Rose Garden of the White House, in Washington, Wednesday, March 16, 2016. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland, right, stands with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden as he is introduced as Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court during an announcement in the Rose Garden of the White House, in Washington, Wednesday, March 16, 2016. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, center, introduce Federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland, right, as Obamaâs nominee for the Supreme Court during an announcement in the Rose Garden of the White House, in Washington, Wednesday, March 16, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland, right, stands with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden as he is introduced as Obamaâs nominee for the Supreme Court during an announcement in the Rose Garden of the White House, on Wednesday, March 16, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland, walks out with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden as he is introduced as Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court during an announcement in the Rose Garden of the White House, in Washington, Wednesday, March 16, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
This photo provided by the U.S. Court of Appeals District of Columbia Circuit shows Chief Judge Merrick Garland in 2013, in Washington. (U.S. Court of Appeals District of Columbia Circuit via AP)
FILE - In this May 1, 2008 file photo, Judge Merrick B. Garland, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, is pictured before the start of a ceremony at the federal courthouse in Washington. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, the court's oldest member and leader of its liberal bloc, he is retiring. President Barack Obama now has his second high court opening to fill. The leading candidates to replace Stevens are Solicitor General Elena Kagan, 49, and federal appellate Judges Merrick Garland, 57, and Diane Wood, 59. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)
Deputy U.S. Attorney Merrick Garland, left, looks on as interim U.S. Attorney Patrick Ryan answers questions during a news conference Thursday May 18, 1995, following a preliminary hearing in El Reno, Okla., for Terry Nichols. A magistrate ruled that there was enough evidence to hold Nichols in prison. (AP Photo/David Longstreath)
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Republicans have said they want the next president to make the selection, hoping their party wins November's election. Billionaire businessman Donald Trump is the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination.

Garland, 63, is widely viewed as a moderate, admired by both Democrats and Republicans. Republican Senators Orrin Hatch and Jeff Flake last week raised the possibility of Senate action on Garland late this year if Democrats keep the White House in the Nov. 8 election.

McConnell seemed keen to shut down that idea on Sunday, saying the Republican majority would not want to confirm Garland "even if it were soon to be in the minority."

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Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid told "Meet the Press" that he thought the Republican facade against Garland would break, because some Republican senators already have said they would be willing to meet Garland, and one Republican - Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois - has said there should be a vote.

"McConnell is leading his Senate over the cliff. And I am telling everybody that's watching this, the senators aren't going to allow that," Reid said.

The White House said it would stand by Obama's nominee.

"We will stand by him from now until he is confirmed and he's sitting on the Supreme Court," White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said on Fox News on Sunday.

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