Obama Nominates Moderate Merrick Garland As SCOTUS Judge, Republicans Say They Won’t Even Meet Him

Obama has officially announced that his nomination for Supreme Court Judge is 63-year-old Merrick Garland, a 19-year veteran of the D.C. Circuit and former clerk for Justice Brennan. Garland would be the oldest person nominated to the court since Justice Lewis Powell was nominated by Nixon in 1971.

Garland is a moderate who leans to the left on environmental issues and gun control, and to the right on “criminal justice”–having joined an opinion against allowing Guantanamo Bay prisoners from seeking relief from the U.S. civil justice system (which SCOTUS later overturned in Rasul v. Bush), for which he was criticized by liberals. Notably, he directed the prosecution of Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols in the Oklahoma City bombing.

He has absolutely no reputation whatsoever when it comes to issues like abortion and the death penalty, so we can’t really tell where he stands on those issues.

In his introduction, Obama touted Garland’s moderate record and temperament, and the fact that he’s generally enjoyed support from both Democrats and Republicans.

“I have selected a nominee who is widely recognized not only as one of America’s sharpest legal minds, but someone who brings to his work a spirit of decency modesty, integrity, evenhandedness and excellence. These qualities and his long commitment to public service have earned him the respect and admiration from leaders from both sides of the aisle.”

Interestingly enough, after Antonin Scalia’s death, Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said Obama “could easily name Merrick Garland, who is a fine man,” adding “He probably won’t do that because this appointment is about the election. So I’m pretty sure he’ll name someone the [liberal Democratic base] wants.”

However, despite the fact that Garland is certainly a moderate, and is considered to be one of the most qualified judges in the nation for the position (though not someone I’d be particularly thrilled with, personally), it’s highly unlikely that Senate Republicans will allow a hearing, nevermind a vote.

What they’ve been saying is that it’s not the person nominated, but the fact that they believe the nomination should be left up to the next president–which, this far away from the election, is unprecedented. Lindsey Graham told CNN that even if Obama picked him, he’d vote against himself, just because he doesn’t think Obama should be allowed to nominate anyone. Mitch McConnell has vowed to not even meet with the nominee, regardless of who it is. 

Of course, polls show that a large majority of the American people would like there to be hearings, including about half of Republicans, so that the Supreme Court can get on with its business. While Republicans believe leaving a vacancy on the court will help them in the election, in terms of getting voters out, it’s likely that this will just make them look like a bunch of babies.

This move may really backfire against conservatives–Donald Trump does not have a very good chance of beating Clinton or Sanders in the general election (he’s polling at 12% among Latinos, which is a dismal statistic for such an important demographic) –and both of them will likely nominate a justice who is both more liberal and younger, thus ensuring a longer time on the bench. WHOOPS.