In the typical high-court confirmation process, the submission of the questionnaire is a low-drama event — a disclosure of pertinent facts about the nominee in prelude to the klieg lights of Senate hearings. But in this case, with Republican leaders determined to save the Supreme Court vacancy for the next president, Democrats are amping up the significance of the questionnaire itself.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the ranking Judiciary Committee Democrat, said Tuesday that its was time for the Judiciary Committee to move forward with Garland’s nomination. “Now that we have this, let’s have some confirmation hearings,” he said.
The questionnaire was quickly posted on the Judiciary Committee website, but there is no indication that panel Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are any more inclined to take action on Garland’s nomination.
The White House delivered the questionnaire after a one-week Senate recess during which an Obama-backed advocacy group redoubled their pressure on a group of nine vulnerable Republican senators seeking re-election this year, including Grassley. Adding to the pressure was Donald Trump’s apparent ascension to presumptive GOP nominee, which has heightened tough questions over whether those senators would prefer a Trump nominee to Garland.
So far, the answer has been yes.
Grassley told the Des Moines Register last week that he “would expect the right type of people to be nominated” by Trump should he win the presidency
On Tuesday, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), a former Judiciary Committee chairman and current member of the panel, declined to say he wasn’t concerned about Trump’s potential nominees. But he said that would not keep him from supporting Trump.
“I have qualms no matter who is president,” he said. “Let me put it this way: I don’t know of Trump’s nominees, but I guarantee you that if he is president of the Unites States we’ll weigh in with him to make sure they’re good people.”
During the campaign, Hatch continued, “It would be an unfair question to try and ask him who is going to get on the Supreme Court or what type of person. That is something that really be thought out and thought through no matter who is president. You know, I suspect that he will be very concerned about his legacy and appointing the very best people he can.”
As for the questionnaire itself, it is mainly a detailed recitation of Garland’s legal career, including his public speaking appearances, his nonjudicial writing, his financial situation, his professional affiliations, and his record as a U.S. Court of Appeals
Garland was asked to select the 10 most significant legal opinions he had written. First on the list was a 2015 decision siding with nonprofit group that argued that it was entitled to waivers of fees under the Freedom of Information Act.
Also mentioned was a 2004 case, United States ex rel. Totten v. Bombardier Corp., where Garland dissented with his colleagues who held that Amtrak, as a discrete corporation separate from the federal government, was not covered under the federal False Claims Act — a position that, notably, won praise from Grassley.