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Live updates: President Obama nominates Merrick Garland to Supreme Court

March 16, 2016

Judge Merrick B. Garland speaks as President Obama looks on in the Rose Garden. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

President Obama on Wednesday nominated Merrick Garland, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, to the Supreme Court. This nomination is expected to kick off a heated battle on Capitol Hill, as GOP lawmakers have already made clear they will not consider the president’s selection.

  • Mark Berman
  • ·

Earlier today, President Obama officially nominated Judge Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court. Here are three things you need to know:

President Obama nominates Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court
The nomination Wednesday is sure to set up a protracted political fight on Capitol Hill, as Republicans have vowed to block any candidate picked by Obama in his final year in office.

In announcing the selection, Obama said he followed “a rigorous and comprehensive process” and praised Garland as “a serious man and an exemplary judge.” Obama also urged Senate Republicans to take up the nomination. Read more about the selection here.

Meet Merrick Garland
The 63-year-old man nominated on Wednesday has spent nearly two decades on the federal appeals court for the District of Columbia, the last three as the court’s top judge.

A native of suburban Chicago, Garland had worked in a prestigious law firm before going to the Justice Department, where he oversaw the prosecution of the men who carried out the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.

Garland spoke about his family on Wednesday in the Rose Garden, which included a note about how one of his daughters was “hiking in the mountains, out of cell service range,” when Obama called to tell him he would be the nominee. Read more about Garland’s life story here.

Republicans refuse to budge following Garland nomination to Supreme Court
Before Wednesday, Republican Senators had said they were agreed in their opposition to Obama’s nominee, whoever that wound up being. On Wednesday, after Garland was named, this opposition did not change.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) gave a speech to reiterate this stance, insisting that the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat should only be filled by the person elected in November. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) weighed in and said he fully supported this stance. While some Senate Republicans spoke with Garland or said they would meet with him, they said this would not change their stance.

“It isn’t about the person, it’s about the process, it’s about the principle,” said Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the Judiciary Committee charged with considering Garland’s nomination, who said he would speak to Garland. :I think we’ve laid down a principle that’s pretty sound…it should go over to a new president.”

Read more about this stance here.

The White House also released a video introducing Garland to the public:

  • Mark Berman
  • ·

According to the White House, Sen. Charles Grassley, a Republican from Iowa and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, will also meet with Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.

  • Mark Berman
  • ·

While this appears to be a very unusual Supreme Court nomination process, Sen. Susan Collins insists that for her, it will be business as usual.

Collins, a Republican from Maine, said she plans to meet with Garland because that is what she does when people are nominated to the Supreme Court.

“Judge Garland is a capable and accomplished jurist,” Collins said in a statement. “The White House has requested that I meet with him, and I look forward to doing so, as has been my practice with all Supreme Court nominees.”

She said she would evaluate the nomination by looking at his record as well as other aspects, including his “intellect, integrity, qualifications, experience, temperament, and respect for the Constitution and the rule of law.” This, she said, is also what she has done for other judicial nominees.

  • Mark Berman
  • ·

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has said that he would not consider President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, made that point again Wednesday through official statements, social media postings and a speech on the Senate floor.

After Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to the court, McConnell spoke with him. In what the senator’s office described as a “more considerate” use of Garland’s time, McConnell spoke with him by phone to avoid “more unnecessary political routines orchestrated by the White House.”

McConnell’s office said in a statement that he again said he thinks the seat should only be filled after the presidential election. And because the Senate won’t be considering the nomination, McConnell’s office said, the majority leader “would not be holding a perfunctory meeting, but he wished Judge Garland well.”

  • Mark Berman
  • ·

getting nominated

For Judge Merrick Garland to be confirmed as a Supreme Court justice, he will  have to go through a rigorous process. This graphic offers a helpful explanation of how it works.

  • Mark Berman
  • ·

President Obama’s selection of Judge Merrick Garland as a Supreme Court nominee comes in the face of Republican leaders saying they have no intention to consider the nomination. So why would Obama select Garland? In this video, The Washington Post’s Jerry Markon explains the possibilities:

  • Mark Berman
  • ·

Senate Republicans are not budging in their refusal to consider President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court after the president nominated Merrick Garland to the job, The Washington Post’s Karoun Demirjian reports.

This hard-line stance — which began to take shape in the hours after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death — has not wavered in the wake of Garland’s nomination. After Garland was officially put forth as the nominee on Wednesday, Republicans remained united in their opposition. PowerPost has more on what Republican leaders had to say.

  • Mark Berman
  • ·

Who is Merrick Garland, the federal appellate judge nominated by President Obama to join the Supreme Court?

Garland is a longtime judge who left a lucrative career at a law firm to become a federal prosecutor. He went on to lead one of the most high-profile prosecutions in recent memory — the case against the men who carried out the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.

A native of suburban Chicago, Garland has twice before been considered by Obama for Supreme Court openings. Head here for more on Garland’s life and background.

  • Michelle Boorstein
  • ·

Since 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court has not had a Protestant justice, a remarkable fact considering the court was dominated by them for much of its history.

But if President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, is confirmed, the court would shift to an even more fascinating makeup: conservative Catholics (with the exception of the more liberal Catholic Justice Sonia Sotomayor) and liberal Jews.

Head to Acts of Faith for more.

  • Mark Berman
  • ·

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination, said on Wednesday that it would be “unprecedented” for his GOP counterparts to refuse to hold hearings for Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.

“Judge Garland is a strong nominee with decades of experience on the bench,” Sanders said in a statement. “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.”

Sanders said that Obama is doing his job and that Republican senators should do the same.

  • Mark Berman
  • ·

In a series of recent remarks, Democratic senators have decried their Republican counterparts for saying they would refuse to consider President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee. Several of these Democratic lawmakers have specifically invoked the Constitution, arguing that GOP legislators are ignoring their duties.

All of which is to say: Do they have to actually consider the nomination, and is there any precedent for this? As The Washington Post Fact Checker Glenn Kessler explains:

As you can see, there is no recent parallel to the current situation: a president filling a sudden vacancy on the court in an election year when the Senate is controlled by the opposition party, particularly when the vacancy occurred with nearly a year left in the presidential term.

But it is also clear that politics has always played a role — and the Senate has set the rules to act as it wants….Indeed, the patterns don’t suggest the Senate used procedures out of constitutional duty, out of deference for what the Constitution says or what previous Senates have done. Instead they used procedures based on the political circumstances of each confirmation.

Head to the Fact Checker for more.

  • Niraj Chokshi
  • ·

Watch Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) deliver his Senate floor response to President Obama’s Supreme Court nomination:

  • Niraj Chokshi
  • ·

A leading small-business group, the National Federation of Independent Business, said in a statement that it will throughly investigate the record of any nominee, with plans to support or oppose their confirmation — a first for the 73-year-old group.

“The stakes are far too high for small businesses to watch this process from the sidelines,” president and CEO Juanita Duggan said. She said she has “grave concerns” about Garland.

“A cursory examination of his record points to a judge who nearly always sides with regulators, labor unions, and trial lawyers at the expense of small businesses,” she said. “That’s very discouraging. Small business has been under heavy pressure from the EPA, the DOL, the NLRB, and the rest of the alphabet soup of regulators that have expanded their power over the private sector.”

  • Niraj Chokshi
  • ·

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), who had warned potential Supreme Court nominees that they would become a “pinata” if they become the president’s pick, said that he did not believe that Merrick Garland was Obama’s first choice.

“With the certainly that you’re not going to be confirmed, because we’re not going to consent to the president’s nominee, I think a lot of the potential candidates would say, ‘Count me out,'” said Cornyn, who is the Senate majority whip and a Judiciary Committee member.

Cornyn said Republicans remained resolved to block any Obama nominee, and he would not address speculation about a lame duck session: “This person will not be confirmed, so there’s no reason going through some motions and pretending like it will happen, because it’s not going to happen.”

  • Niraj Chokshi
  • ·

At least one Republican senator acknowledged discussions of whether the GOP-led Senate might confirm an Obama nominee in a “lame duck” session after the November election should Hillary Clinton be elected president.

“If the election doesn’t go the way Republicans want it, there will be a lot of people open to that I’m sure,” said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who sits on the Judiciary Committee. 

  • Niraj Chokshi
  • ·

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), a former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said on Twitter on Wednesday that the Senate should wait until “this toxic presidential election season is over” before consideration a Supreme Court nominee.

  • Niraj Chokshi
  • ·

Watch Obama explain in the video below why he nominated Judge Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court:

  • Niraj Chokshi
  • ·

Leading Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday that the “American people deserve” a vote on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee.

The president fulfilled his obligation by making a nomination, which the Senate must do its duty to consider, she said.

Evaluating and confirming a Justice to sit on this nation’s highest court should not be an exercise in political brinkmanship and partisan posturing. It is a serious obligation, performed on behalf of the American people, to ensure a highly qualified candidate fills a vacancy on the Court. That obligation does not depend on the party affiliation of a sitting president, nor does the Constitution make an exception to that duty in an election year.

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. 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.

  • Niraj Chokshi
  • ·

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) said on Twitter Wednesday that he would support President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee if he were nominated again by the next president.

  • Niraj Chokshi
  • ·

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement that President Obama’s decision to provide a Supreme Court nomination is a “disservice to voters:”

President Obama’s decision to nominate a Supreme Court Justice denies the American people a voice in this process. For more than eighty years, there has not been a nomination and confirmation of a Supreme Court Justice in a presidential election year and now is not the time to break with bipartisan practice. Democrats’ willingness to cast aside nearly a century of precedent only exposes how eager they are to advance the political agenda of a lame duck president. When Americans head to the polls in a few short months, they will have a unique opportunity to determine the direction of the court – President Obama is doing a disservice to voters with this attempt to tip the balance of the court with a liberal justice in the eleventh hour of his presidency. We will not stand by idly while President Obama attempts to install a liberal majority on the court to further undermine our Constitution and protect his lawless actions.

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