Although it has been nearly a month since President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the Senate has yet to move forward with his confirmation.
Of the 54 Republicans in the Senate, only two say they support confirmation hearings– Susan Collins of Maine and Mark Kirk of Illinois, according to The Washington Post. Eighteen say they would personally meet with Garland given the opportunity and three support “lame-duck action,” meaning the Senate would neglect to confirm any Supreme Court Justice until the election of a new president. The rest did not answer.
Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ken.) has repeatedly said the Senate should wait until the next president is elected to take any action regarding the confirmation of a Supreme Court justice. According to ABC News, if the Senate does not hold a confirmation hearing, Garland’s nomination is essentially frozen. If a Republican president is elected, Garland will likely not be confirmed, leaving the Republican president with the opportunity to nominate someone of his or her choosing. In this case, the nominee will likely be largely right-wing. However, ABC News stated that, if Hillary Clinton is elected, the Senate may take steps to confirm Garland before Clinton takes office to prevent her from nominating a more liberal individual.
On Friday, April 8, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor called for greater diversity among future justices. Although Sotomayor did not directly mention Garland, a white Jewish man who graduated from Harvard Law School, she stated, “I, for one, do think there is a disadvantage from having [five] Catholics, three Jews, everyone from an Ivy League School.”
“A different perspective can permit you to more fully understand the arguments that are before you and help you articulate your position in a way that everyone will understand,” Sotomayor continued, according to Time.
On a separate occasion, Obama defended his nomination of Garland during a speech at the University of Chicago Law School on Thursday, April 7, “Yeah, he’s a white guy, but he’s a really outstanding jurist. I’m sorry, I mean, you know, I think that’s important.”
The Senate’s views on the Supreme Court aside from Merrick’s nomination have also grown heated. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, called out Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts for over-politicizing the confirmation process. On Tuesday, April 5, Grassley said, “Many of my constituents believe, with all due respect, that the chief justice is part of the problem,” according to Politico.
“The confirmation process doesn’t make the justices appear political,” Grassley continued. “The confirmation process has gotten political precisely because the court itself has drifted from the constitutional text and rendered decisions based instead on policy preferences.”
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid criticized Grassley on Wednesday, April 6, according to CNN. Reid jumped to Roberts’ defense, saying, “Senator Grassley has sacrificed the historical independence of the Judiciary Committee in order to do the bidding of the tea party and the Koch brothers.”
Editor’s Note: Information from The Washington Post, Time, ABC News, Politico and CNN was used in this report.