Grassley: If I can meet with a 'dictator,' I can meet with Garland

Story highlights

  • Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley said he is willing to meet with Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland
  • Grassley is facing re-election in Iowa this year
  • "If I can meet with a dictator in Uganda, I can surely meet with a decent person in America," he said

Washington (CNN)Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley said Thursday he'd be willing to meet with Judge Merrick Garland, but firmly rejected the idea of considering his nomination to the Supreme Court even in a lame-duck session of Congress.

Grassley, an Iowa Republican facing reelection, said a meeting with Garland wouldn't change his mind that President Barack Obama's nomination to the high court should not move forward this year. He said he would talk about possibly meeting with Garland after Easter.
    "If I can meet with a dictator in Uganda, I can surely meet with a decent person in America," Grassley said Thursday.
    He added that it's a "pretty hard to say no" to an hour-long meeting with Garland.
    "I want to make it clear that the message we told him on the phone yesterday -- I will tell him face-to-face," Grassley.
    Grassley's position is different than his party leadership's stance. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told the judge in a phone call Wednesday he would not be meeting with him.
    Grassley, in his phone call with Garland, reiterated the position of the GOP-led Senate: That the chamber would not take up the nomination this year until after a new president is elected. And he flatly rejected the idea of taking up the nomination in a lame-duck session of Congress before a new president is sworn in.
    "It would be intellectually dishonest for me to say that at this point," Grassley said when asked if he'd be open to considering the nominee in a lame-duck session.
    Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn agreed.
    "I think it would be a mistake," the Texas Republican said when asked about considering the nominee in a lame-duck session after the elections.
    Speaking to CNN's Erin Burnett on "OutFront" Thursday night, Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi, said he would block Garland's nomination despite saying "I don't know anything about Judge Garland's qualifications."
    "The position that we've taken consistently is that this is a decision the American people can now make during an election year," Wicker said. "And it's wrong this far into the presidential election to have someone swing the court in a different direction without trusting the people to speak to that issue first."