McConnell: Senate won't confirm any Obama Supreme Court nominee

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate will not confirm a Supreme Court nominee from President Barack Obama during his last year in office, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday.

In remarks on the Senate floor, McConnell acknowledged Obama's constitutional right to offer a replacement for late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died earlier this month. But he said even Vice President Joe Biden, a Democrat, had argued back in 1992 for postponing action on Supreme Court nominees during an election year.

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"Presidents have a right to nominate, just as the Senate has its constitutional right to provide or withhold consent. In this case, the Senate will withhold it," McConnell said.

"The Senate will appropriately revisit the matter after the American people finish making in November the decision they've already started making today," the Kentucky Republican added, referring to the Nov. 8 presidential election.

See images of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's funeral:

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McConnell: Senate won't confirm any Obama Supreme Court nominee
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 20: With family members following behind, pallbearers carry the casket of late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia up the steps of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, February 20, 2016 in Washington, DC. Scalia, who died February 13 while on a hunting trip in Texas, layed in repose in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court on Friday and his funeral service will be at the basillica today. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 20: With family members following behind, pallbearers carry the casket of late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia up the steps of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, February 20, 2016 in Washington, DC. Scalia, who died February 13 while on a hunting trip in Texas, layed in repose in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court on Friday and his funeral service will be at the basillica today. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
The casket of US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is carried into the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for his funeral mass on February 20, 2016 in Washington, DC. Scalia died on February 13 at the age of 79. / AFP / Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
The casket of US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is carried into the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for his funeral mass on February 20, 2016 in Washington, DC. Scalia died on February 13 at the age of 79. / AFP / Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 20: U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife Virginia Thomas arrive for the funeral for fellow Associate Justice Antonin Scalia at the the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception February 20, 2016 in Washington, DC. Scalia, who died February 13 while on a hunting trip in Texas, layed in repose in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court on Friday and his funeral service will be at the basillica today. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 20: Former Vice President Dick Cheney, left, and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas take their seats for funeral Mass for Associate Justice Antonin Scalia inside the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception February 20, 2016 in Washington, DC. Scalia, who died February 13 while on a hunting trip in Texas, layed in repose in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court on Friday and his funeral service will be at the basillica today. (Photo by Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 20: People arrive for the funeral for the late Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, February 20, 2016 in Washington, DC. Scalia, who died February 13 while on a hunting trip in Texas, layed in repose in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court on Friday and his funeral service will be at the basillica today. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 20: Republican presidental candiate Sen. Ted Cruz, center, and former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, upper left, take their seats for funeral Mass for Associate Justice Antonin Scalia inside the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception February 20, 2016 in Washington, DC. Scalia, who died February 13 while on a hunting trip in Texas, layed in repose in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court on Friday and his funeral service will be at the basillica today. (Photo by Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 20: People arrive for funeral Mass for Associate Justice Antonin Scalia inside the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception February 20, 2016 in Washington, DC. Scalia, who died February 13 while on a hunting trip in Texas, layed in repose in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court on Friday and his funeral service will be at the basillica today. (Photo by Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 20: Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and his wife Jane Sullivan Roberts lead a procession of current and former Supreme Court justices down the steps of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception at the end of the funeral for late Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, February 20, 2016 in Washington, DC. Scalia, who died February 13 while on a hunting trip in Texas, layed in repose in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court on Friday and his funeral service will be at the basillica today. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 20: With family members following behind, pallbearers carry the casket of late Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia down the steps of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception at the end of the funeral, February 20, 2016 in Washington, DC. Scalia, who died February 13 while on a hunting trip in Texas, layed in repose in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court on Friday and his funeral service will be at the basillica today. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 20: People look on during the funeral Mass for Associate Justice Antonin Scalia at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception February 20, 2016 in Washington, DC. Scalia, who died February 13 while on a hunting trip in Texas, layed in repose in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court on Friday and his funeral service will be at the basillica today. (Photo by Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images)
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Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid quickly condemned McConnell's attitude as "obstruction on steroids" that showed Republicans in the Senate taking their direction from Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

"Gone are the days of level-headedness and compromise," the Nevada Democrat said.

Biden made the statements referenced by McConnell in 1992, when Biden was Senate Judiciary Committee chairman. Biden has said he was speaking hypothetically, because there was no Supreme Court vacancy at the time.

Senator Chris Coons, a Democrat, said Tuesday that Obama should nominate "the most qualified, the most confirmable, the most centrist candidate possible," to help convince more Republicans that they should at least consider the nominee. He also noted that some Republicans, including Senator Mark Kirk, have already said the Senate should do so.

Coons said one "balanced," and "capable," candidate was Sri Srinivasan, a U.S. federal appeals court judge who was confirmed unanimously by the Senate three years ago. But Coons, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also said there was a series of other qualified candidates.

Scalia was one of the most conservative Supreme Court justices in American history, but "I do not think President Obama should seek to replace him with a comparably outspoken progressive," Coons told reporters.

Coons also said fellow Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, a former Judiciary Committee Chairman, had told him that in the past century, "every single Supreme Court nominee has received a vote or a hearing or both."

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