Two Republicans Backtrack On Support For Hearings For SCOTUS Nominee

Two Republicans who broke with their party to support hearings for Judge Merrick Garland have changed their minds and gotten back in line with the Senate GOP Caucus.

Merrick Garland Supreme Court Nomination

Two Republican Senators have backtracked on their support for hearings and a vote for Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland:

WASHINGTON — The wall of Republican opposition to the nomination of Judge Merrick B. Garland to the Supreme Court has been shored up by two Republican senators revoking their support for holding confirmation hearings.

Their moves highlight the immense pressure that Republican leaders are placing on senators as they try to build unified opposition to President Obama’s choice to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February.

As the White House heralds the growing number of Republicans agreeing to meet with Judge Garland, Senators Jerry Moran of Kansas and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska have reversed themselves and say they now back the decision made by Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, not to hold hearings.

“Senator Moran called Senator Grassley to discuss his position,” said a statement released by Mr. Moran’s office on Friday. “As Senator Moran has said, he is opposed to President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee. He has examined Judge Garland’s record and didn’t need hearings to conclude that the nominee’s judicial philosophy, disregard for Second Amendment rights and sympathy for federal government bureaucracy make Garland unacceptable to serve on the Supreme Court.”

Mr. Moran’s announcement, first reported by National Review, came a week after he said the Senate should move forward with the nomination process, including holding hearings and meeting with Judge Garland.

“As I have said since the vacancy was created, I believe I have a duty to ask tough questions and demand answers,” he said in a statement on March 25. “I am certain a thorough investigation would expose Judge Garland’s record and judicial philosophy, and disqualify him in the eyes of Kansans and Americans.”

On March 21, according to The Garden City Telegram, Mr. Moran told constituents, “I would rather have you complaining to me that I voted wrong on nominating somebody than saying I’m not doing my job.”

Similarly, a spokeswoman for Ms. Murkowski, Karina Petersen, said the Alaska senator also no longer supported holding hearings, though she will meet with Judge Garland to discuss cases that are important to her state.

“Senator Murkowski respects the decision of the chair and members of the Judiciary Committee not to hold hearings on the nominee,” Ms. Petersen wrote in an email.

In February, before Mr. Obama named Judge Garland as his pick, Ms. Murkowski told reporters in Alaska that the nominee should be granted a hearing. Though she emphasized, in a Facebook post the next day, that she opposed Mr. Obama’s making the nomination, Ms. Murkowski had declined to directly address her stance on holding hearings since her comments in February.

Their announcements leave just two Republicans who openly support holding hearings and even voting on Judge Garland’s nomination: Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Mark S. Kirk of Illinois.

Perhaps not surprisingly, both Moran and Murkowski are up for re-election in 2016  and, while neither one of them appears to have a significant primary challenger at this point in time, both Senators have come under significant fire from conservative groups for deviating from the party line. In any case, the fact that both Moran and Murkowski have jumped back to supporting “No Hearings, No Votes” is a good indication of just how hard it is going to be to crack the near-solid wall that the Senate GOP Caucus has formed on this issue. As far as re-election in November goes, both Moran and Murkowski are seemingly assured of easily winning another term in the Senate. There hasn’t been a Democrat elected to the Senate from Moran’s Kansas since 1939, for example, and the last Democrat to represent Alaska in the Senate got there largely because the incumbent he was running against had been convicted of charges that were ultimately expunged on appeal, and he was tossed out of office when he ran for re-election in 2014. Even with Donald Trump at the top of the ticket, the odds that either candidate would lose to a Democrat are exceedingly low to the point that they are effectively non-existent.

While the threat from Democrats is minimal for both of these candidates, the same cannot be said about the threat of a challenge from the right. In both states, there is still plenty of time for one or more Tea Party challengers to get into the race against them and, at the very least, make life difficult. Additionally, as I’ve noted before while polling shows that the majority of American voters support hearings for Judge Garland, a majority of Republicans most emphatically do not and any Republican who deviates from the “No Hearings, No Votes” orthodoxy risks arousing the ire of voters who have shown no hesitancy when it comes to trying to oust long-term incumbents in primary campaigns. Given that, the behavior of the GOP Caucus in general, and Senators like Moran and Murkowski in particular, is entirely understandable. They are betting, not incorrectly, that they would risk more by supporting hearings than they are by holding the line. Until that electoral calculus changes, you won’t see much change out of the Senate.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Law and the Courts, US Politics, , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. Tony W says:

    It’s just a privilege to watch these people govern. Brilliant minds, all of them.

  2. Fred says:

    Good for them. Why even bother with a man that stands against the Bill of Rights? It is a shame the majority of Americans are so clueless.

  3. gVOR08 says:

    @Fred: I assume you’re referring to the 2nd Amendment. Do you have a clue how thin that case against Garland is? Do you think you’re going to like Hillary’s nominee any better?

    So it seems the Rs can impose some party discipline after all. But apparently only to do stupid stuff. Hey, maybe they should adopt as a motto, “Don’t do stupid stuff.” I heard that somewhere. Think how much better off the country, and the Republican Party would be had W been guided by something like that.

  4. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Fred:

    I suggest that you start carrying around a houseplant.

    At least then you’ll be replacing the oxygen that you consume.

  5. Fred says:

    @gVOR08: I am aware of who Garland is. We don’t want him. I doubt Hillary’s nominee will be any better but that does not mean we should accept him.

  6. Fred says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Go right to the insults when you have nothing to argue. Well done.

  7. al-Ameda says:

    Sen Moran: Surely the nomination of Merrick Garland should be taken up hearings.
    Sen McConnell: I know you, I know where you live, where your family is.
    Sen Moran: What does that have to do with Garland’s nomination?
    Sen McConnell: What is it with you guys from Kansas? I’m speaking English here.
    Sen Moran: Garland deserves a hearing, right?
    (((slap, slap slap slap))
    Owww! What!?
    Sen Moran: We can still vote ‘no’ as you want
    (((slap slap slap slap slap)))
    Owwwww! What? What?
    Sen McConnell: I’m making a ruling here, you even mention ‘hearings’ or ‘fairness’ again and I will call your family to Washington to visit you at Walter Reed.
    Sen Moran: But I’m not ill, that won’t be necessary
    {{{slap slap slap slap slap slap}}}
    Ohhhhhhhh … So, you don’t want me to support hearings now? Okay.
    Sen McConnell: Kansas! You and Brownback, unbelievable.

  8. Gavin says:

    For a party that asserts they’re against political correctness, the Republicans sure are against anyone deviating from the conservative viewpoint.

    Yet, that’s the definition of Political Correctness: The enforcement of one rigid ideology.

  9. Fred says:

    @Gavin: No, it is not.

  10. Gavin says:

    @Fred:

    Yes, it is.

    That’s exactly what has been meant by political correctness – in communist Russia, the term referred to someone “deeply interested in establishing and enforcing the correct line.”

    Welcome to your 2016 Republican Party, Fred! Live it, love it!

  11. David M says:

    If these two Senators are up for re-election this year, shouldn’t they recuse themselves and let the other Senators who aren’t up for re-election decide whether or not to confirm Garland? For that matter, why are they still allowed to vote on anything? I thought they had established the rule that the people should a voice.

  12. Mister Bluster says:

    @David M:..For that matter, why are they still allowed to vote on anything? I thought they had established the rule that the people should a voice.

    Yes! Yes! Mitch McConnell says so! It’s the Biden Rule!
    Oh, wait. To quote Fred: “No, it’s not.”

    Mitch McConnell Cites Phony ‘Biden Rule’ To Deny Merrick Garland’s Nomination
    Sen. McConnell immediately used the bogus “Biden rule,” to justify their refusal to allow a vote on any Obama Supreme Court nominee. Let’s remember, there is no such thing as the Biden rule.
    http://crooksandliars.com/2016/03/mitch-mcconnell-cites-phony-biden-rule

  13. Fred says:

    @David M: Agreed – they should suspend all business for the year until after the election.

  14. Fred says:
  15. al-Ameda says:

    @Fred:

    @Gavin:
    No – you are incorrect

    You’re right, the Republican Party is behaving in a Soviet style of enforced consensus.

  16. James Pearce says:

    @Fred:

    Go right to the insults when you have nothing to argue.

    Not to pile on here, but if you want to hit Garland for his position on the 2nd amendment, the appropriate place to do that is at Congressional hearings.

  17. stonetools says:

    @Fred:

    : I am aware of who Garland is. We don’t want him. I doubt Hillary’s nominee will be any better but that does not mean we should accept him.

    Good. So When Hillary appoints a younger, more liberal Justice next year, I want to hear no nonsense from the right about Hillary’s refusal to “compromise” and appoint a moderate Justice.

    Obama, meanwhile, should make clear that if the hearings for Garland don’t begin by Labor Day, the nomination is withdrawn. Why bother to try to compromise with people who don’t want compromise?

  18. gVOR08 says:

    @Fred: Sometimes words are used in different ways. On the Republican side these days, the phrase is used more like Ben Carson used it. To him it meant that he couldn’t say stuff he wanted to say because people laughed and pointed at him when he said stuff like the pyramids were Joseph’s granaries.

  19. DrDaveT says:

    Two Republican Senators have backtracked on their support for hearings and a vote for Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland

    If there is a God, she will ensure that the words flip and flop figure prominently in their re-election campaigns.

  20. David M says:

    @Fred:

    Why even bother with a man that stands against the Bill of Rights? It is a shame the majority of Americans are so clueless.

    Care to explain why the GOP should not hold hearings then? Isn’t it a pretty big abdication of their responsibility to actually show Americans why Garland is unacceptable?

    I doubt Hillary’s nominee will be any better but that does not mean we should accept him.

    Care to explain the logic of this? You realize that Clinton’s nominee will be both younger and actually liberal?

  21. Fred says:

    @James Pearce: Why bother? It is a complete waste of time. He has already demonstrated he is not worth discussing any further. At this point it is all theater.

  22. Fred says:

    @James Pearce: Why bother? It is a complete waste of time. He has already demonstrated he is not worth discussing any further. At this point it is all theater.@David M:

    I think it is self-explanatory. A complete waste of time.

    Have you seen Hillary’s nomination list? I expect the seat top go to the highest bidder.

  23. steve s says:

    After Hillary fills Scalia’s seat next year, they’ll be wishing they had Garland.

    The interesting question to me is, will the SCOTUS be 5-4 women by the end of Hillary’s first term, or will it take til the end of her second?

  24. Fred says:

    @steve s: Perhaps you are right but honestly I think it is a lost cause. It doesn’t matter who will be appointed, we are past the tipping point.

  25. David M says:

    @Fred:

    I think it is self-explanatory. A complete waste of time.

    Have you seen Hillary’s nomination list?

    OK, not all of us can translate your ramblings into something approaching a coherent thought. Why would Congress doing it’s job and holding hearings on a Supreme Court nominee be a waste of time?

    And yes, it’s an absolute certainty that Clinton’s nominee will be younger and more liberal. That’s why Garland is rightly seen as a compromise pick…

    You saying things are obvious doesn’t make them so.

  26. Fred says:

    @David M:

    I think it is self explanatory. It is a response to the post. You can tell because it is slightly indented. He had 2 questions. I answered them sequentially.

    I am not sure why you can’t understand what I mean by a waste of time. Why bother having a full confirmation hearing? What is the point when the man does not believe in the Bill of Rights and will be voted down?

    Do you just want to enjoy the political show?

    And I am not sure what is meant by Hillary’s pick being more “liberal”. That may be a good thing for all. Garland is the worst of both worlds, He is a big government type. Maybe Hillary’s pick will actually believe in some individual liberties (although I am sure not the 2nd Amendment)>

  27. James Pearce says:

    @Fred:

    “Why bother? It is a complete waste of time.”

    Making the argument is only a waste of time if the argument is unconvincing.

    Congressional Republicans would like us to take for granted an argument that they can’t even be bothered to make. They should not also think that will be enough…

  28. Fred says:

    @James Pearce: What about Harriet Miers? Did you champion her having a confirmation hearing?

  29. David M says:

    @Fred:

    What is the point when the man does not believe in the Bill of Rights and will be voted down?….Maybe Hillary’s pick …

    You might need to have a link for something as ridiculous as “the man does not believe in the Bill of Rights” to be taken seriously.

    Hillary’s list of younger, more liberal justices will be the same as Obama’s. Thinking otherwise is silly.

    Do you think Senators should refuse to confirm all judicial nominees from the other party?

  30. beth says:

    @Fred: Miers had a hearing with the Judiciary Comittee and performed so poorly that even Republicans on and off the committee voiced their disapproval with Bush’s pick. Try again, Fred.

  31. David M says:

    @Fred:

    Why can’t conservatives use wikipedia? Confirmation hearings were scheduled for Harriet Miers, so doesn’t that support the idea that Garland should get a hearing?

  32. Fred says:

    @David M:

    A link for what? His 2nd Amendment positions are well known and are in clear violation of the words and spirit of the Bill of Rights.

    And yes, in such a clear cut case they should put an end to it as soon as possible.

  33. Fred says:

    @David M: She never got out of committee. There was no full hearing or up and down vote. Nor should she have, nor should Garland.

    It was a farce, as is the Garland pick.

  34. David M says:

    @Fred:

    It’s well known the NRA attacks on Garland about the 2nd Amendment are bogus.

    But you claimed he didn’t believe in the bill of rights. The entire thing.

  35. Fred says:

    @David M:

    lol “experts say”

    The man does not belong on the Federal bench at any level.

  36. Tyrell says:

    This Judge Garlamd seems like a reasonable, sensible person; a nice man.

  37. James Pearce says:

    @Fred:

    What about Harriet Miers? Did you champion her having a confirmation hearing?

    A) It ain’t about me.
    B) It ain’t about Harriet Miers either.

    We should get on the same page, Fred. I understand the “no hearings” position to be a political strategy that considers the merits of Obama’s nominee to be irrelevant. The argument is that the next president should make the pick, not this one.

    If you want to argue about the merits of Obama’s nominee, then you should be prepared to do that in the context of hearings. Don’t be a sucker.

  38. David M says:

    @Fred:

    He voted have the full court hear a case that overturned precedent. He also voted in the majority on another minor record keeping issue, agreeing with Congress, the Supreme Court and the Bush Administration.

    How are those remotely disqualifying, let alone even interesting?

  39. David M says:

    @Fred:

    You still haven’t answered the question of whether Senators should refuse to confirm all judicial nominees from the other party? Or shown where Garland doesn’t believe in the bill of rights.

  40. Fred says:

    @David M:

    Garland’s vote in Parker vs DC was relatively meaningless and was a political maneuver. That case was going to the USSC anyone and he was thinking of his career.

  41. Fred says:

    @David M:

    When there is such a fundamental disconnect, then yes. They should refuse to move on such a nominee when they are in a position to stop it.

  42. David M says:

    @Fred:

    If that vote was meaningless, how is it also the evidence he’s not qualified to be on the Supreme Court?

  43. David M says:

    @Fred:

    So you don’t believe in the Constitution or having a functioning judiciary system?

    Keep in mind that this is an obvious and poorly executed scam, the GOP don’t actually object to Garland on the merits. Being gullible enough to think that Garland is objectionable isn’t something to brag about.

  44. Fred says:

    @David M: That was not his only vote regarding gun control. It was a shrewd political vote that was meaningless as that case was going to the USSC anyway.

    I have to run, had fun discussing with minimal insults

    I wish the quote function was easier to work. Apologies if it was hard to follow my replies.

  45. David M says:

    @Fred:

    That was not his only vote regarding gun control

    Again, this isn’t very convincing without a link.

  46. al-Ameda says:

    @Fred:

    The man does not belong on the Federal bench at any level.

    Thanks for the very compelling fact-free and content-free analysis.

  47. rachel says:

    @James Pearce:

    Don’t be a sucker.

    Too late.

  48. James Pearce says:

    @rachel:

    Too late.

    For Fred maybe. I still have hope for our merry Republic.

    As usual, it will be the decent and fair people who carry the load, doing all the hard work and making sure the gears are greased and the machinery keeps working. Scalia’s absence on the bench is already being felt. This should speed up the five stages of grief. We’re in “bargaining” right now –no hearings– but if we can skip over “depression” and get right to “acceptance,” that would be nice, not for any magnanimous reasons, but because it’s just going to be easier that way.

    We’re going to need a judge. Bottom line. Making it an election issue is a huge gamble for the GOP. Better for them to seat Obama’s judge -Garland, or whoever- than give the next president, who will probably still be from the other party, a mandate for stacking the court.

  49. steve s says:

    Someone just unearthed an NRA lawyer praising Garland before the nomination.

    I wonder what it’s like to be a sucker for right-wing propaganda. I just can’t imagine.

  50. Pch101 says:

    @Fred:

    Why bother? It is a complete waste of time.

    There was this dude named Alexander Hamilton, and he wrote some papers. You should try reading some of them.