© Greg Nash
One of the Senate's most politically vulnerable Republicans will meet with President Obama's Supreme Court nominee next week.
Sen. Mark KirkMark KirkJuan Williams: McConnell won big by blocking Obama Battle for the Senate: Top of ticket dominates The untold stories of the 2016 battle for the Senate MORE (R-Ill.) is expected to sit down with Merrick Garland on Tuesday, his office confirmed to The Hill.
Kirk said late last month that he would meet with Obama's nominee, quickly breaking with the GOP leadership's strategy of refusing to begin the confirmation process or, in most cases, even meet with the judge.
While roughly a dozen Republican senators have said they're open to meeting with Garland, Kirk is one of three who have publicly backed giving him a hearing. And he will be the first to meet with Garland.
Sen. Kelly AyotteKelly AyotteJuan Williams: McConnell won big by blocking Obama Battle brews over Trump’s foreign policy Battle for the Senate: Top of ticket dominates MORE (R-N.H.), who also faces a tough reelection bid, is also expected to meet with him.
In a video circulated by Democrats, the New Hampshire Republican told reporters, "I don't know offhand when it is, but I've been told by my office that we've set it up and come to a mutual time."
Ayotte has repeatedly said she believes the late Justice Antonin Scalia's seat should remain vacant until next year and that she would use a meeting with Garland to reiterate that position.
Republican Sens. Ron JohnsonRon JohnsonWeek ahead: GOP quickly laying groundwork for reg rollback The Hill's 12:30 Report Passing US-Canada preclearance would improve security and economy MORE (Wis.), Rob PortmanRob PortmanGOP debates going big on tax reform Who is Tim Ryan? A closer look at Pelosi’s challenger Battle for the Senate: Top of ticket dominates MORE (Ohio) and Pat Toomey (Pa.) have each suggested they are willing to meet with the nominee. How those three senators, along with Kirk and Ayotte, do in November's elections could decide which party controls the chamber next year.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who isn't up for reelection, is also expected to meet with Garland after Congress's recess.
Republicans are facing widespread pressure to agree to give Garland a hearing. Democrats, in particular, are focused on targeting vulnerable incumbents and the seven Republican senators who previously supported Garland when he was confirmed to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The president's pick also met with Democrats in Washington this week, including Sen. Charles SchumerCharles SchumerDems press Trump to support ‘Buy America’ provision in water bill Overnight Finance: Trump takes victory lap at Carrier plant | House passes 'too big to fail' revamp | Trump econ team takes shape Anti-Defamation League: Ellison's past remarks about Israel 'disqualifying' MORE (D-N.Y.), who is expected to be the next Democratic leader.
In addition to meeting with Kirk, a White House official said, Garland will also meet with Democratic Sens. Joe DonnellyJoe DonnellyTrump’s vow on Medicare in doubt after HHS choice Red-state Dems face tough votes on Trump picks Red-state Democrat: I'll oppose Trump's health chief MORE (Ind.), Ben CardinBen CardinAide: Trump invited Philippine leader to WH Dem senator: Hold hearing on Russian interference in election Overnight Finance: Questions swirl around Trump's plan for his business | Treasury pick promises major tax cut | White House downplays Carrier deal MORE (Md.), Al FrankenAl FrankenDems press Trump to keep Obama overtime rule GOP wants to move fast on Sessions Overnight Cybersecurity: Lawmakers pushing for vote to delay warrant rule changes MORE (Minn.) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandRepublicans tie Trump's Defense pick to funding fight Panetta: Dems should give Mattis waiver to head Defense GOP chairman: Spending bill expected to last through April MORE (N.Y.) next week.
Kirk's meeting was first reported by the Chicago Sun-Times.