WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, to the Supreme Court Wednesday, and Republicans congressional leaders immediately called the move an attempt to help Democrats in the November elections and reiterated their intent to block a confirmation hearing or vote. .
Garland would fill the vacancy left by the death last month of Justice Antonin Scalia.
Obama said Garland’s experience and dedication have earned him support from politicians of both parties. It would be unprecedented, he said, if Congress didn’t give Garland even the opportunity of a confirmation hearing and a vote.
“Presidents don’t stop working in the final year of their term,” he said. “The Senate shouldn’t either.”
Obama called on Congress to give Garland a fair confirmation hearing and vote. He emphasized the overwhelming bipartisan support Garland received when confirmed to his position on the federal appeals court in Washington.
Senate Republicans reacted quickly on Snapchat, echoing earlier opposition. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor that the Senate will follow the so-called Biden rule, referring to a statement Vice President Joe Biden made when he was Judiciary Committee chairman. Biden said in late June 1992 that a president should not offer a nominee a few months before the November election.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin, said in a Snapchat video that the issue isn’t the quality of the nominee but the decision-making process.
“This is about a basic principle,” Ryan said. “Everything is at stake in 2016, and the American people should have the right to make this call.”
Ilya Schapiro, editor-in-chief of the libertarian Cato Institute’s Supreme Court Review, said in an e-mail statement that Garland is the “safest, least ideological nominee President Obama could have made, which means that the president wants to put pressure on Senate Republicans more than he wants to energize his base.”
But Schapiro had the same position as Republicans, saying the ninth seat on the high court should be filled after the election.
“Scalia was one of four conservatives on the court, who, when joined by Justice Anthony Kennedy, formed a majority crucial for enforcing the First and Second Amendments, federalism, the separation of powers and other constitutional protections for individual liberty,” he wrote. “If he’s replaced by a progressive jurist — or even a moderate one — all that comes crashing down.”
Garland, a Harvard graduate born in Chicago, was nominated to the D.C. Court of Appeals by President Bill Clinton in 1997. Previously, , Garland worked as a federal prosecutor, where he supervised the Oklahoma City bombings prosecutions.
Obama said Garland considers the Oklahoma City case “the most important thing (he) has ever done in (his) life.” The president commended Garland’s service in Oklahoma, saying he was highly committed not only to the legal procedures of the case but to the victims and their families.
“Everywhere he went, he carried with him in his briefcase the programs of the memorial service with each of the victim’s names inside,” he said. “A constant reminder of why he had to succeed.”
Garland said the Supreme Court nomination was the second greatest honor of his life, behind his wife agreeing to marry him.
“As my parents taught me, by both words and deeds, a life of public service is as much a gift to person who serves as it is to those he is serving,” he said. “For me, there could be no higher public service than serving as a member of the United States’ Supreme Court.”