President Barack Obama on Wednesday nominated Merrick Garland, the chief judge for the United States Court of Appeals, to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court created by the death of longtime justice Antonin Scalia, teeing up a bitter election-year melee with Senate Republicans.
GOP leaders in the chamber almost immediately dug in their heels and promised no hearings or votes on the pick.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said this in a speech on the Senate floor:
“The American people may well elect a President who decides to nominate Judge Garland for Senate consideration. The next President may also nominate someone very different. Either way, our view is this: Give the people a voice in the filling of this vacancy.”
But soon thereafter cracks started to form in the party’s line.
Without a doubt, the most interesting fissure is what GOP lawmakers are willing to accept should their party lose the White House in November.
At least two Republican senators are suggesting they’d be open to supporting Garland during Congress’ lame duck session should Democrats win the presidency for another four years. Their calculation is that Garland, a seasoned legal hand seen by many as moderate, is better than a more liberal pick that Hillary Clinton could make in 2017 should she win this fall.
At a Rose Garden ceremony on the White House grounds, Obama on Wednesday morning pointed to Garland as “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, even-handedness and excellence.”
The president’s pick is designed to make the decision to block Garland’s candidacy as painful as possible for the Senate GOP.
Both Johnny Isakson and David Perdue are in line with Republican leaders and say the next president should fill the Supreme Court vacancy.
Read more about Garland and the political football his nomination has prompted here.