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The president has chosen Merrick Garland, 63, as his nominee for the Supreme Court, reports NPR.
Garland, 63, has served 19 years on the Washington, D.C., circuit, reports Think Progress. The former prosecutor is viewed as a moderate, and has a reputation for "openness and collegiality" in the D.C. circuit, reports NPR.
If confirmed, Garland will replace Antonin Scalia, who Obama called "one of the most influential jurists of our time." But Scalia was also surely one of the most conservative members of the court, and Garland won't be Scalia.
Obama said his pick is "widely recognized" as "someone who brings to his work a spirit of decency, modesty, integrity, even handedness and excellence."
And he claimed that Garland "needs no introduction" to the legal community, but Obama acknowledged Americans are unlikely to know anything about the chief judge of the D.C. Circuit Court -- which is sometimes called "the second highest court in the land." He told of Garland winning a scholarship to Harvard Law School, and then working to support himself.
In what was otherwise a sober news conference, Garland got a laugh when putting his hand over heart as Obama talked about Garland selling his comic book collection for the cash. "It's tough, been there," quipped Obama.
Obama praised Garland for knowing "the law is more than an intellectual exercise," and for ensuring perspective on how rulings effect real people. But Obama spent a lot of time praising Garland's temperament -- that he is "understanding before disagreeing" and that "people respect the way he treats others, the genuine courtesy."
And the president spent a long time calling on Congress to actually consider his nomination. Republicans have said, even on the day that Scalia died, that they would refuse to consider any nominee that Obama puts forward. His remarks were pointed:
"I also know that because of Justice Scalia's outsized role on the court, and in American law, and the fact that Americans are closely divided on a number of issues before the court, it is tempting to make this confirmation process simply an extension of our divided politics. The squabbling that's going on in the news every day. But to go down that path would be wrong. It would be a betrayal our best traditions, and a betrayal of the vision of our founding documents."
Obama said not giving Garland a hearing and an up-or-down vote would mean "everything is subject to the most partisan of politics" and would be an "abdication" of the Senate's duty.
"I have fulfilled my constitutional duty," the president said in closing his remarks. "Now it's time for the Senate to do theirs. Presidents do not stop working during their final year. Neither should Senators."
Garland "is the right man for the job," Obama concluded. "He deserves to be confirmed. I could not be prouder of the work he has already done for the American people."
Garland was visibly emotional as he took the podium, saying being nominated to the Supreme Court was the greatest honor of his life, second only to the day his wife, Lynn agreed to marry him.
"It's also the greatest gift I've ever received," Garland continued, his voice cracking. "Except -- and there's another caveat -- the birth of our daughters, Jessie and Becky."
"As my parents taught me, by both words and deeds, a life of public service is as much a gift to the person who serves as it is to those he is serving. ...
"Fidelity to the constitution and the law has been the cornerstone of my professional life and it is the hallmark of the kind of judge I have tried to be for the past 18 years. If the Senate sees fit to confirm me to the position for which I have been nominated today I promise to continue on that course."
After the press conference concluded, the president issued an additional statement on Facebook, accompanied by a video introducing Americans to the Chicago-native who will now be considered for the highest court in the land -- if Senate Republicans decide to hold confirmation hearings.