- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 18, 2016

Conservatives are rallying to defend GOP senators who have threatened to block President Obama’s Supreme Court pick, announcing a seven-figure advertising campaign Thursday to publicly thank vulnerable Republicans up for election in November who have stuck with party leaders on the issue.

The “Let the People Decide” campaign from the Judicial Crisis Network will run ads defending Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, John McCain of Arizona, Rob Portman of Ohio and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania — each of whom is up for re-election this year.

The ads will also defend Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said the Senate would refuse to accept an Obama nominee to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, who died over the weekend.

“This isn’t about Republicans or Democrats. It’s about your voice,” a narrator says in one ad. “You choose the next president. The next president chooses the next justice.”

Republican senators say the appointment of a new justice should wait until after November’s election and Democrats say Mr. Obama has the right to make a nomination and the Senate should confirm the pick.

“We want to thank the U.S. Senators who say that the American people should decide who picks the next Supreme Court justice,” said Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director for JCN. “The American people are fed up with Washington politicians, and the selection of the next justice is simply too important to leave to politics as usual. Give the people a voice. Let them decide in November what kind of court they want.”

All of the senators in the group’s campaign are up for re-election this year except for Mr. McConnell, who won re-election in 2014.

Ms. Ayotte, Mr. Johnson, Mr. Portman and Mr. Toomey were all first elected in 2010 in states that Mr. Obama carried twice, and are in line for stiff challenges from Democratic competitors.

Mr. Grassley, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement Saturday that it’s been standard practice over the last 80 years or so that Supreme Court nominees are not nominated and confirmed during a presidential election year, and that it would make sense to defer to the American people.

He told Iowa reporters earlier this week that he would he would take it a step a time on the prospect of moving of forward on holding a nomination hearing and that he wanted to see who the president put forward first.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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