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Supreme Court Nominee Meets With Senators

But Republican Dan Coats won't be among those to meet with Merrick Garland

Supreme Court justice nominee Merrick Garland continues to make the rounds on Capitol Hill. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Supreme Court justice nominee Merrick Garland continues to make the rounds on Capitol Hill. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin dismissed concerns Monday that President Barack Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court is not liberal enough to satisfy the Democratic party’s base, saying what’s important is that Merrick Garland will uphold the Constitution.  

“This is not a matter of getting a representative on the Supreme Court of the United States,” Cardin, D-Md, said after a private meeting with Garland. “It’s not what you believe should be a political philosophy.  

“This is a person who will advance the rule of law in this country, who will recognize the responsibility of the Supreme Court to be the final arbitrator on Constitutional issues.”  

Cardin said the Senate needs to follow its own Constitutional responsibility to provide “advice and consent” on the president’s nominee. GOP lawmakers have said an appointment should wait for the election of a new president.  

“It is March … there’s nine months left in this year,” Cardin said. “To suggest that we don’t have the time, and the president doesn’t have the authority to appoint is just absolutely outrageous.”  

Cardin expressed hope that Tuesday’s scheduled meeting between Garland and Sen. Mark S. Kirk, R-Ill., would start to break the GOP blockade of the nominee.  

But Senate Republican leadership and Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley of Iowa have not wavered from the position that it should be the prerogative of the next president to fill the seat on the Supreme Court.  

Garland, who is considered a centrist as chief judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, would replace the conservative stalwart Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February. Republicans says Garland’s appointment could shift the ideology of the court for a generation.  

At the same time, his more moderate rulings on criminal justice and his deference to government agencies during his tenure on the appeals court have raised doubts among some liberal commentators .  

Before meeting Cardin on Monday, Garland stopped by the office of Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., who also urged the Senate to hold a hearing and a vote on the nominee.  

“I hope my Senate colleagues will do their jobs and meet with Judge Garland, ask him questions, learn about his record and his temperament, and then hold hearings and an up or down vote on his nomination,” Donnelly said in a statement after his meeting.  

But any hope by Democrats that Garland’s meeting with the Democratic moderate would encourage Dan Coats, his Republican counterpart in Indiana, to join in meeting with the Supreme Court nominee appears to be for naught.  

Coats’ office told Roll Call later Monday that the senator would not be meeting with Garland.  

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah., a former chairman of the Judiciary panel, continued to push the GOP position in an opinion piece published Monday by the New York Times.  

“Considering a nominee in the midst of a toxic presidential election would be irresponsible. Doing so would only further inject a circus atmosphere into an already politicized confirmation process,” Hatch wrote. “Conducting a thoughtful and substantive deliberation after the election is in the best interests of the Senate, the judiciary and the country.”  

Cardin expressed the view that Garland seemed to be holding up well under the most unusual circumstances of his nomination during a presidential election year.  

“He’s a very even-tempered individual,” Cardin said. “He certainly has the judicial temperament. We did talk a little about the nomination process, and he is honored to have been nominated and is prepared to meet with each individual senator, and … will be ready for hearings as soon as they’re set,” Cardin said.  

“Obviously he reads the comments that have been made by Sen. Grassley and others, and seems focused on doing his job. That is, as a nominee, making himself available.”  

Contact Lesniewski at and follow him on Twitter at @nielslesniewski.

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