Seven Republican Senators break with party, agree to meet Obama SCOTUS nominee

And the division in the Senate over Obama’s new Supreme Court nominee begins:

THE HILL – A small group of Senate Republicans are breaking with their party’s Supreme Court strategy, saying they’re willing to meet with President Obama’s pick to succeed Justice Antonin Scalia.

Seven Republicans, so far, have said they are open to considering or meeting with Merrick Garland, the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia who was nominated earlier Wednesday by President Obama.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said she agreed to meet with Garland after the White House reached out, but that it will take place after the Senate returns from its two-week recess in April.

“I’ve never refused an offer to meet with a nominee to the Supreme Court, that has always been my standard practice,” she told reporters.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) also told reporters that he would meet with Garland, saying “I meet with people, that’s what I do.”

Whether or not to meet with Garland is also splitting blue-state Republicans, who are at the center of the battle for control of the Senate.

Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) each said Wednesday they were open to meeting with Garland.

According to Talking Points Memo, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) said while he would meet with Garland, he still believes the seat should remain empty.

Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), who chairs the Appropriations Committee, echoed his comments. While he told reporters he was open to considering the nominee, he added in a statement that Scalia’s seat should remain vacant until next year.

While this may not amount to anything, the GOP doesn’t have a good track record of standing up to Obama. So this is likely the beginning of the Senate folding into a vote on Obama’s nominee.

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