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

Full Interview: McConnell on Supreme Court Showdown

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
FILE PHOTO -- U.S. President Barack Obama annnounces Judge Merrick Garland (R) of the United States Court of Appeals as his nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington March 16, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo
Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama's Supreme Court nominee, meets with Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 25, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama's Supreme Court nominee, meets with Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) (unseen) on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 25, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 16: U.S. President Barack Obama and Judge Merrick Garland, the president's nominee to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, walk into the Rose Garden at the White House, March 16, 2016 in Washington, DC. Merrick currently serves on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and if confirmed by the US Senate, would replace Antonin Scalia who died suddenly last month. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 16: Judge Merrick Garland speaks after being introduced by U.S. President Barack Obama as his nominee to the Supreme Court in the Rose Garden at the White House, March 16, 2016 in Washington, DC. Garland currently serves as the chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and if confirmed by the US Senate, would replace the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia who died suddenly last month. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
U.S. President Barack Obama, left, shakes hands with Merrick Garland, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, following the announcement of his nomination for the Supreme Court in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, March 16, 2016. The nomination escalates a battle that will dominate the final 10 months of Obama's presidency, as the White House is locked in an unprecedented dispute with Senate Republican leaders who have pledged to ignore the president's choice. Photographer: Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg via Getty Images
U.S. President Barack Obama, center, announces his nominee for the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, right, as Vice President Joseph 'Joe' Biden looks on in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, March 16, 2016. The nomination escalates a battle that will dominate the final 10 months of Obama's presidency, as the White House is locked in an unprecedented dispute with Senate Republican leaders who have pledged to ignore the president's choice. Photographer: Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg via Getty Images
US President Barack Obama joins his Supreme Court nominee, federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland (L), during the nomination announcement the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, March 16, 2016. Garland, 63, is currently Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The nomination sets the stage for an election-year showdown with Republicans who have made it clear they have no intention of holding hearings to vet any Supreme Court nominee put forward by the president. / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
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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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