President Obama on Wednesday nominated Merrick Garland to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, filling the seat vacated by Justice Antonin Scalia’s death this month.
Garland is currently the chief judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Described as a moderate, he was a finalist for the president’s two previous Supreme Court appointments.
Senate Republican leaders reiterated their intent not to vote on the nomination because they believe the next president should have the right to fill the seat; however, they refrained from directly attacking Garland.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed to block the nomination.
“It seems clear that President Obama made this nomination, not with the intent of seeing the nominee confirmed, but in order to politicize it for purposes of the election,” McConnell said. “The American people are perfectly capable of having their say on this issue. So let’s give them a voice.”
McConnell said he “wished Judge Garland well” in a phone call, according to a spokesperson, but made it clear that he wouldn’t meet with the judge.
Several GOP senators broke ranks and said they would meet with Garland.
“I meet with people, that’s what I do,” Judiciary Committee member Senator Jeff Flake said. “If the election doesn’t go the way Republicans want it, there will be a lot of people open to that I’m sure.”
Several Democrats said that they believe Republicans can’t block the appointment indefinitely, especially with Donald Trump leading the Republican delegate count.
“Republicans are underestimating how awful it is going to be when they go back home for their recess,” Senator Brian Schatz said. “If you’re here in Washington for too long, you might be mistaken and misled into thinking this is a partisan issue. When they go back home, they’re going to get an earful.”
Democratic senators who addressed the appointment were nearly unanimous in their support for Garland.
“Nobody questions this man’s qualifications,” top Judiciary Committee member Patrick Leahy said.
During his announcement Wednesday morning, Obama said that lawmakers should treat the nomination process with the “seriousness and care it deserves.”
(Image: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)