- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 16, 2016

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - Reacting to President Barack Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court, New Hampshire’s U.S. senators had more to say Wednesday about the process than the man in question.

Obama said he will nominate appeals court judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court to replace conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who died last month. Garland has served for 19 years on United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and became its chief judge in 2013.

U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a Republican up for re-election this year, said she would meet with Garland as a courtesy, but believes the Senate should not move forward with the confirmation process until after the November presidential election.

“Empowered with a lifetime appointment, the next Supreme Court justice will likely have a significant impact on the court and the people of our country for years,” she said. “In the midst of a presidential election and a consequential debate about the future of our country, I believe the American people deserve to have a voice in the direction of the court.”

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, said the American people expect senators to do their jobs and give fair consideration to Supreme Court nominees, and that she looks forward to meeting Garland and reviewing his qualifications.

“Today, the president fulfilled his constitutional responsibility. Now it’s the Senate’s turn,” said Shaheen. “Every senator swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution and that oath applies to election years and nonelection years alike.”

Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat who is running for Ayotte’s seat, sounded a similar theme and accused Ayotte of shirking her constitutional duty.

“Sen. Ayotte has decided to cater to her party leaders and her special interest backers by playing politics with justice for millions of Americans,” she said. “Ayotte’s obstruction truly represents Washington dysfunction at its worst, and the people of New Hampshire deserve better.”

Former state Sen. Jim Rubens, who is challenging Ayotte in the Republican primary, said if he were in the Senate now, he would carefully examine Garland’s record, particularly in cases involving the Bill of Rights.

“Senators should not be afraid to take a tough vote - even if it is a ‘no’, even during an election year - in the event he fails Constitutional scrutiny,” he said.

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