News Wrap: Republican Senators refuse to hear Supreme Court nominations

In our news wrap Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kent.) announced that Senate Republicans will not hear any Supreme Court nominations until a new president has been elected. Also, the CDC is investigating 14 possible cases of Zika virus in the U.S. that might have been spread through sexual transmission.

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    Good evening. I'm Gwen Ifill. Judy Woodruff is on assignment.

    On the "NewsHour" tonight:


    For many years, it's been clear that the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay doesn't advance our national security.


    President Obama gives Congress a plan to shut down the controversial Guantanamo Bay detention center, and Congress pushes back.

  • Also ahead:

    Republicans get ready for tonight's caucuses in Nevada, one week out from Super Tuesday.

    And the first in our two-part series on how Los Angeles is working to improve its special education programs after a court case exposed a broken system nearly 20 years ago.

  • SHARYN HOWELL, Special Education Director, LA Unified School District:

    What we have been working on for a number of years is to convince people that students with disabilities are all of our responsibility. They don't belong to the Division of Special Education.


    All that and more on tonight's "PBS NewsHour."



    In the day's other news: Senate Republicans made it official: There will be no hearings and no vote on anyone President Obama nominates for the Supreme Court. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said nearly all of his members support that decision, and he said that he won't even agree to meet with a nominee.

    The announcement gave new life to the partisan war of words that has erupted over the future of the court.

    SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), Texas: It's up to the American people in this next election, no matter who they choose, to make the nomination for this important seat on the Supreme Court. Justice Scalia served for 30 years. So, this clearly extends far beyond President Obama's term of office.

    SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), New York: Today's effort by Senator McConnell to get every member of the Judiciary Committee to sign a letter saying they won't do hearings is an effort to make this issue go away. It won't. The American people won't let it. We won't let it.


    President Obama has said he still plans to nominate a replacement for the late Justice Antonin Scalia, and he's urged the Senate to act.

    Scalia died this month in Texas, and the Associated Press reported today he had coronary artery disease, diabetes and other ailments. Texas officials relied on those findings, by the Supreme Court's physician, in deciding against an autopsy.

    There may be new evidence that the Zika virus can be transmitted through sexual contact. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said today it's investigating 14 possible cases in the U.S. All involve women whose male partners recently returned from places affected by Zika. The virus has been linked to birth defects, and is typically spread by mosquitoes.

    The Syrian government and its main opposition group signed on today to a proposed cease-fire, but with conditions. Damascus said it will continue attacking terror groups, and the rebels insisted on an end to sieges and bombardments.

    Meanwhile, at a Senate hearing, Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged skepticism that any truce will hold. But he said this is the only viable diplomatic option.

    JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State: It may be too late to keep it as a whole Syria if we wait much longer. So that's what at issue here, and I'm not going to vouch for this. I'm not going to say this process is sure to work, because I don't know. But I know that this is the best way to try to end the war, and it's the only alternative before us if indeed we're going to have a political settlement.


    The United States and Russia proposed the cease-fire. Kerry said the U.S. is considering plan B options if it fails.

    The flood of migrants and refugees pouring out of Syria and other countries and into Europe has reached dramatic new levels. The International Organization for Migration said today more than 110,000 people have landed in Greece and Italy just since January 1. It took six months to reach that total last year.

    Top U.S. military and diplomatic officials fired new criticism today at China's actions in the South China Sea. The commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific told senators that Beijing is seeking hegemony over Eastern Asia. And he said newly installed missile batteries and radar systems on disputed islands pose a serious threat.

  • ADM. HARRY HARRIS, Commander, U.S. Pacific Command:

    In my opinion, China is clearly militarizing the South China Sea, and you would have to believe in a flat Earth to think otherwise. These are actions that are changing, in my opinion, the operational landscape in the South China Sea.


    Secretary of State Kerry also complained of militarization by China. Later, he met with the visiting Chinese foreign minister.

    The price of oil headed south again today, after gains in recent days, and Wall Street went down with it. The Dow Jones industrial average lost nearly 190 points to close at 16431. The Nasdaq fell 67 points, and the S&P 500 gave up 24.

    And chocolate maker Mars has issued a candy recall, after finding bits of plastic in a Snickers bar in Germany. The recall includes Snickers, as well as Milky Way and Mars bars, among others. It covers 55 countries, including Germany, but the company didn't specify all of the other countries affected.

    Still to come on the "NewsHour": the future of the Guantanamo Bay detention center; Nevada votes in the last GOP contest before Super Tuesday; alarming new predictions on rising sea levels; and much more.

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