Updated 9 p.m.
A third Republican senator broke with party leadership this week to say that Supreme Court nominee Merrick B. Garland ought to be granted hearings, according to a news report.
The Garden City Telegram reported that Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) told a small group gathered in a Cimarron, Kan., courthouse on Monday that GOP senators “should interview Garland and have a hearing on his nomination,” in the paper’s words.
“I can’t imagine the president has or will nominate somebody that meets my criteria, but I have my job to do,” Moran said, according to the report. “I think the process ought to go forward.”
Another Kansas paper, the Dodge City Daily Globe, reported that Moran was even more explicit in comments to a Rotary Club there: “I think we have the responsibility to have a hearing, to have the conversation and to make a determination on the merit,” he said.
But Moran added that he was unlikely to ultimately support confirming Garland: “I can’t imagine this president is going to nominate someone I find acceptable. I have a restricted view of what judges are supposed to do.”
Moran joins Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) in favoring hearings. Kirk has also called for an up-or-down vote on Garland.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has shut the door on any consideration of a Supreme Court nominee this year, arguing that the next president — not President Obama — ought to have the right to name a replacement for the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
Democrats are hoping to pressure GOP senators into acting on Garland’s nomination amid a national campaign. But they have been targeting embattled incumbents such as Kirk, who are facing tough reelection campaigns. Moran is up for reelection this year, but he has not appeared on lists of vulnerable incumbents, and no prominent Democrat has emerged to challenge him.
But Moran — a past chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee — may, uncharacteristically, be trying to put some space between himself and Republican Party leaders.
“I would rather have you [constituents] complaining to me that I voted wrong on nominating somebody than saying I’m not doing my job,” Moran told the Cimarron crowd, according to the Telegram report.