- Associated Press - Thursday, March 17, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Two former lieutenant governors from opposite ends of the political spectrum called on Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley on Thursday to hold nomination hearings for the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy.

Joy Corning, a Republican who served two terms with Gov. Terry Branstad in the 1990s, said she is surprised to see the change in Grassley, who 50 years ago as a state legislator led an effort to change Iowa’s judicial selection process to insulate it from politics.

“Throughout your career you have been a fair-minded, common-sense consensus builder. Refusing to fill the Supreme Court vacancy is none of those things,” she said.

Sally Pederson, a Democrat who served two terms with then-Gov. Tom Vilsack until 2007, said the decision to delay the nomination process “is a purely partisan political decision and one that will do lasting damage to our courts.”

“This is not the Chuck Grassley we thought we knew,” she said.

President Barack Obama nominated federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland on Wednesday. Grassley, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which holds confirmation hearings and votes on federal court appointments, has refused to conduct hearings. He and other Republicans contend that voters should be allowed to determine whether the next justice is replaced by a conservative president or a liberal one.

It’s believed Garland would tilt the court’s 4-4 balance in the liberal direction after decades of conservative dominance, often led by Justice Antonin Scalia, who died suddenly last month. The court vacancy ignited an intense political fight in an already volatile presidential election cycle in which both parties have fiercely contested primaries.

Pederson and Corning are co-chairwomen for Justice Not Politics, a nonpartisan group formed five years ago to keep politically motivated groups from influencing the courts.

The conservative group One Nation said Thursday it plans to run $140,000 worth of television ads in Des Moines that highlight “the consequences of allowing President Obama to jam through an election year appointment and radically shift the Court to the left.”

Campaigns also have been launched by liberal and progressive groups including MoveOn.org, which is planning rallies outside senators’ home-state offices on a March 21 “National Day of Action.”


Follow David Pitt on Twitter at https://twitter.com/davepitt

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