WASHINGTON - Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton plans to rebuke Senate Republicans in a speech on Monday for denying a hearing to U.S. Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland and warn of the dangers if Donald Trump appoints the next justice.
A campaign aide said Clinton would call on Republican Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to do his job and convene a hearing for Garland, a moderate federal appeals judge who is President Barack Obama's nominee to fill the seat vacated by the Feb. 13 death of Antonin Scalia.
Grassley, a six-term senator from Iowa who has tangled with Clinton over the investigation into her use of a private e-mail account while secretary of state, responded that Clinton wanted to distract voters from the ongoing email investigations.
"This is simply a blatant attempt by Secretary Clinton to politicize the Supreme Court and to change the conversation," Grassley said in a statement ahead of Clinton's speech.
Grassley, head of the Senate committee that must hold hearings for any Supreme Court nominee to be considered for confirmation by the full Senate, has said he is opposed to holding a hearing or a vote on an Obama nominee in a presidential election year.
Clinton has apologised for the email arrangement, which is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and has been slammed by Republicans for potentially compromising security. Clinton has said she did nothing wrong and she believes the government will vindicate her.
A campaign aide said Clinton would outline the stakes in the fight over Garland's nomination and voice concern about any nominee from Trump, the front-runner in the Republican race for the Nov. 8 presidential election, during her speech in Madison, Wisconsin, later on Monday.
Clinton will say a Trump nominee to fill the position would seek to curb Americans' rights and empower corporations, the aide said.
Wisconsin will hold both Democratic and Republican primaries on April 5.
Garland travelled to Capitol Hill on Monday to meet with Democratic Senators Ben Cardin of Maryland and Joe Donnelly of Indiana. His first visit with a Republican, Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois, is scheduled for Tuesday.
SANDERS "IN THIS TO WIN"
Clinton's speech came as her campaign aides argued with rival Bernie Sanders' campaign in competing calls with the media over whether Sanders has a viable path to the Democratic presidential nomination.
Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, won contests in Alaska, Hawaii and Washington on Saturday, chipping away at Clinton's lead in the race for the 2,382 delegates needed to take the Democratic nomination at the party's Philadelphia convention in July.
Clinton now has a lead of 268 pledged delegates over Sanders heading into the final two months of the nominating battle. When superdelegates, party leaders who can support any candidate, are added, Clinton leads 1,712-1,004, according to an Associated Press count.
But Sanders aides said he could eclipse Clinton's advantage after the final round of contests on June 7, and that superdelegates would begin to switch to back Sanders from Vermont once he did.
"We are in this to win it, and there is a path to do so," campaign manager Jeff Weaver said.
Clinton's campaign described her lead as "insurmountable" given the party's proportional allocation of delegates in all states, which means Clinton will keep piling up delegates even in states Sanders wins.
"You have to win these big states very big, you have to win by landslides" to make up the deficit, Clinton strategist Joel Benenson told reporters.
Trump also plans to campaign in Wisconsin this week as he seeks to build his lead over Republican rivals U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Ohio Governor John Kasich.
Trump has won 738 of the 1,237 delegates needed to take the Republican nomination at its July convention in Cleveland. Cruz has won 463, while Kasich has won 143, according to The New York Times.
In the latest sign of unpredictability in the Republican race, Trump vowed to sue Louisiana over its delegate allocation. A Trump campaign adviser told MSNBC the campaign would file a complaint with the Republican National Committee to decertify some delegates.
Last week, The Wall Street Journal detailed the delegate fight in the state, which gave Trump and Cruz 18 each after its March 5 contest but has 10 others up for grabs.
(Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu, Susan Heavey, Amanda Becker and Ginger Gibson; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli, Howard Goller and Leslie Adler)
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Published Date: Mar 29, 2016 03:45 AM | Updated Date: Mar 29, 2016 03:45 AM