Merrick Garland, who President Obama today nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court, is at once a “brilliant legal mind” who is a “consensus nominee,” while also being a divisive selection that is “precisely the kind of deal that Donald Trump has told us he would make.”
At least, that’s how the current presidential candidates see the longtime jurist, who currently serves as the chief judge of the Court of Appeals for the Washington, D.C., Circuit.
Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton praised Merrick as “a nominee with considerable experience on the bench and in public service, a brilliant legal mind, and a long history of bipartisan support and admiration.” She went on to urge the Senate to “perform the Constitutional duty they swore to undertake” and hold confirmation hearings for Merrick, ultimately giving the nominee an up-or-down vote.
In her statement, the former secretary of State took aim at the broad consensus among Senate Republicans that they will not hold any hearings on Merrick’s nomination until a new president has taken office.
“The Senate has never taken more than 125 days to vote on a Supreme Court nominee, and on average, a confirmation or rejection has taken just two months,” she wrote. “This Senate has almost a full year to consider and confirm Judge Garland. It should begin that work immediately by giving Judge Garland a full and fair hearing followed by a vote. That is what the American people deserve, it is what our Constitution demands, and with millions of people’s lives in the balance, anything less is entirely unacceptable.”
Vermont senator and rival Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders echoed Clinton’s call for Senate action on Garland’s nomination.
“Judge Garland is a strong nominee with decades of experience on the bench,” Sanders said in a statement published today on his website. “My Republican colleagues have called Judge Garland a ‘consensus nominee’ and said that there is ‘no question’ he could be confirmed. Refusing to hold hearings on the president's nominee would be unprecedented. President Obama has done his job. It’s time for Republicans to do theirs. I call on Sen. Grassley to hold confirmation hearings immediately and for Leader McConnell to bring the nomination to floor of the Senate if Judge Garland is approved by the Judiciary Committee."
Across the electoral aisle, two Republican candidates for president had vastly different responses to the news of Garland’s nomination.
Speaking at Villanova University in Pennsylvania today, Ohio Gov. John Kasich declined to mention Garland by name but hewed to the Republican Party line that nominating a Supreme Court justice during an election year is an unacceptable political ploy. Fresh off Tuesday’s primary victory in his home state, Kasich said the president “has failed” because “you cannot stiff the legislative body you have to work with.”
“I don’t think the president should send anybody up now 'cause it’s not going to happen,” Kasich continued, according to ABC News. “It’s just more division.”
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, however, did not shy away from lambasting Garland’s credentials and, more pointedly, the president’s decision to nominate someone to fill the vacancy left by the late conservative stalwart Justice Antonin Scalia.
“Merrick Garland is exactly the type of Supreme Court nominee you get when you make deals in Washington D.C.,” said Cruz, whose campaign has largely painted the one-term Tea Party senator as a Washington “outsider” who can take on establishment politics. “A so-called ‘moderate’ Democrat nominee is precisely the kind of deal that Donald Trump has told us he would make — someone who would rule along with other liberals on the bench like Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor.”
In the statement posted on his campaign website, Cruz went on to reaffirm that he supports Republican leadership’s plans to stonewall Garland’s nomination and refuse to grant the nominee any hearing “until the next president is sworn into office.” He continued:
“Make no mistake, if Garland were confirmed, he would side predictably with President Obama on critical issues such as undermining the Second Amendment, legalizing partial-birth abortion, and propping up overreaching bureaucratic agencies like the EPA and the IRS. We cannot afford to lose the Supreme Court for generations to come by nominating or confirming someone that a dealmaker like Donald Trump would support. Washington dealmakers cannot be trusted with such crucial lifetime appointments.”
Just hours after Obama announced Merrick’s nomination and the presidential contenders weighed in, Sen. Chuck Grassley, who chairs the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee, said the Senate will not even consider Merrick’s nomination until after the general election in November. The 82-year-old Iowa Republican reportedly spoke with Merrick on the phone today at 3:19 p.m., according to CNN.
“Chairman Grassley congratulated Judge Garland and reiterated the position of the Senate majority, that it will give the American people a voice and an opportunity this year to debate the role of the Supreme Court in our system of government,” a Grassley spokesperson told CNN. “Senator Grassley will reiterate the position again if an in-person meeting is scheduled."
At press time, Republican front-runner Donald Trump had not publicly commented on Garland’s nomination.