CNN reports that President Barack Obama has named Judge Merrick Garland as his nominee to the US Supreme Court to fill the vacancy created in the unexpected passing of Justice Antonin Scalia. Judge Garland currently sits as the chief judge on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and was short listed as a nominee to the high court previously. He was appointed to his current position by former President Bill Clinton after serving as lawyer for the US Justice Department, where he was a lead investigator in the Oklahoma City Bombing and and Unabomber cases.
The announcement of the selection of Judge Garland by the White House comes following statements by Senate Republicans following the death of Justice Scalia that they will not consider any nominees until after the inauguration of the next President following this year’s election. Although Judge Garland is well received by members of both parties, GOP leaders have reiterated their refusal to consider a new justice.
During his announcement made from the White House Rose Garden, President Obama made the case for his nominee saying,”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, even-handedness and excellence,” Obama said. “These qualities and his long commitment to public service have earned him the respect and admiration from leaders from both sides of the aisle.”
There is hope that sufficient pressure can be applied to Republican members of the Senate concerned with legacy building and electoral challenges in their home states that the stated deadlock can be broken. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and GOP Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley are unyielding in their resolve to block the appointment process.
“The American people may well elect a president who decides to nominate Judge Garland for Senate consideration,” McConnell said. “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.”
When asked for comment, presidential candidate Donald Trump said he agrees with position of Republican lawmakers, “I think the next president should make the pick. And I think they shouldn’t go forward. And I believe I’m pretty much in line with what the Republicans are saying,” Trump told CNN’s Chris Cuomo Wednesday on “New Day.”
Until a new justice is appointed, the Supreme Court will continue to operate and hear cases with eight court members, equally divided between Republican and Democratic appointments. In the case of a 4-4 decision on any issues before the court, the lower court ruling will stand, with no precedent set by the nation’s highest court.
Currently the Supreme Court is set to hear challenges to public sector unions, affirmative action admissions at the University of Texas, abortion rights, voting rights, the Affordable Healthcare Act (Obamacare)’s contraception mandate, and challenges to executive action on illegal immigration in the coming term.