As the debate over who should replace late conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia continued into Monday, NBC News correspondent and MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell took to NBC Nightly News to tout claims that the discussion could hurt Republicans and lead to Democratic Senatorial candidates winning elections in November to help their party retake control.
Anchor Lester Holt led with the latest developments not related to the campaign and his replacement as Justice correspondent Pete Williams outlined how the Court will go forward with its remaining docket of cases and what the Appeals Court rulings were in key cases if the Supreme Court ruling results in a 4-4 tie.
As an aside, Williams cited examples where the lower court rulings would mean wins for conservatives (on illegal immigration and abortion) while ABC correspondent Terry Moran exclusively hyped on World News Tonight ones where the Appeals Court rulings would stand that’d benefit liberals (on public sector unions and voting rights).
Back to Mitchell, Holt began the second segment by explaining that the refusal of Senate Republicans to accept whomever President Obama nominates “could leave this battle raging for well over a year.”
Mitchell took over from there and first declared that “[t]he battle over the Supreme Court instantly redefining the presidential race. Republicans on the trail today.”
Following soundbites from three 2016 GOP presidential candidates, Mitchell lamented that “[t]he political wars exploded within hours of Antonin Scalia's death” and lectured Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for “playing to the Republican base” by “vowing to block any Obama nominee, saying the next president should fill the vacancy.”
She also made sure to fire back with a clip of the President from Saturday “pushing back” against McConnell before parroting the arguments of Democrats that “there is plenty of time to confirm a nominee...and no excuse to leave the Court gridlocked, potentially for another year.”
Describing what type of nominee would increase the odds that Senate Republicans would confirm, Mitchell expressed glee with a full map charting Republican Senators up for reelection in 2016 in blue states that could lose in November due to a long fight over Scalia’s replacement:
So far, most Republicans up for re-election in swing states seem to be following their leader, but depending on whom the president picks, could it backfire? Even helping Democrats retake the Senate. Still in the presidential race, it's a rallying cry for Republicans, especially Ted Cruz, a former Supreme Court clerk.
The transcript of the segment from February 15's NBC Nightly News can be found below.
NBC Nightly News
February 15, 2016
7:03 p.m. Eastern
LESTER HOLT: As we said, no matter who it is the President picks the Republican leader in the Senate and many of the leading GOP candidates say no one should get a vote and the seat should remain empty until the next President nominates a successor. That could leave this battle raging for well over a year as NBC's Andrea Mitchell reports.
ANDREA MITCHELL: The battle over the Supreme Court instantly redefining the presidential race. Republicans on the trail today.
REPUBLICAN SENATOR TED CRUZ (Tex.): I intend to make 2016 a referendum on the U.S. Supreme Court.
REPUBLICAN SENATOR MARCO RUBIO (Fl.): We're not moving forward on a nominee until after the election.
DONALD TRUMP: The Republicans should not allow it to happen.
MITCHELL: The political wars exploded within hours of Antonin Scalia's death. Playing to the Republican base, Senate Leader Mitch McConnell vowing to block any Obama nominee, saying the next president should fill the vacancy. President Obama quickly pushing back.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I plan to fulfill my constitutional responsibilities to nominate a successor in due time.
MITCHELL: Democrats today arguing there is plenty of time to confirm a nominee.
DEMOCRATIC SENATOR PATRICK LEAHY (Vt.): I think we ought to talk about this, the Constitution of the United States.
MITCHELL: And no excuse to leave the Court gridlocked, potentially for another year.
LEAHY: It would be the height of irresponsibility for the Republican leadership not to have a vote on a nominee from the president.
MITCHELL: So who will the President choose? The smart political bet, a moderate federal judge supported in the past by Republicans, much harder for them to reject. So far, most Republicans up for re-election in swing states seem to be following their leader, but depending on whom the president picks, could it backfire? Even helping Democrats retake the Senate. Still in the presidential race, it's a rallying cry for Republicans, especially Ted Cruz, a former Supreme Court clerk.
CRUZ: We're not going to give up the U.S. Supreme Court for a generation by allowing Barack Obama to make one more liberal appointee.
MITCHELL: And Senator Leahy told NBC that President Obama already has his list. In fact, the President is likely to consult Republicans as well as Democrats to see if any potential nominee has a chance of getting a vote despite the pressure from Republican leaders to block any action. Lester.
HOLT: Andrea Mitchell, thank you.