Obama nominates Merrick Garland to Supreme Court

President Obama on Wednesday nominated Merrick Garland, the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, to the Supreme Court.
 
Appearing alongside Garland in the Rose Garden, Obama said few of his presidential responsibilities "are more consequential than appointing a Supreme Court justice, particularly one to succeed Justice [Antonin] Scalia."
 
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"This is not a responsibility that I take lightly," the president said, adding he was setting aside "short-term expediency and narrow politics."
 
"Today, after completing this exhaustive process, I've made my decision," Obama continued. "I've 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, even-handedness and excellence."
 
"He will ultimately bring that same character to bear on the Supreme Court," Obama said, noting that he was "uniquely prepared to serve immediately."
 
Obama grew animated when calling on Republicans to allow a hearing and vote on Garland.
 
"It is tempting to make this confirmation process simply an extension of our divided politics, the squabbling that's going on in the news every day," he said. "But to go down that path would be wrong. It would be a betrayal of our best traditions and a betrayal of the vision of our founding documents.
 
"This is precisely the time when we should play it straight."

Obama noted that Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin HatchRyan drops border-tax proposal as GOP unifies around principles Trump triggers storm with transgender ban Kerry on Trump’s military transgender ban: ‘We’re better than this’ MORE (R-Utah) was among those Republicans who voted to confirm Garland to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in 1997, adding that the Republican recently praised Garland as a "nice man" and in the past described him as a consensus nominee.

Obama also sought to invoke past remarks from John Roberts, now the Supreme Court chief justice, praising the legal mind of Garland.

Obama described him as a "serious man and exemplary judge" and said he would travel to Capitol Hill starting Thursday to "get a fair hearing ... and then an up-or-down vote."

Obama brandished his ties to the judge, noting he was "born and raised in the land of Lincoln, in my hometown of Chicago and my home state of Illinois."
 
Noting Garland was widely recognized in law enforcement circles and the greater legal community, Obama praised his "sterling record as a prosecutor," including at the Justice Department and overseeing the federal response to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. 
 
The selection of Garland fulfills Obama’s goal of putting forth a nominee who has support from both Republicans and Democrats. 
 
Regardless, the nomination is sure to trigger a partisan battle in the Senate, where GOP leaders have pledged to block any Obama nominee to replace Scalia.
 
Garland began making phone calls to lobby senators immediately following the Rose Garden event, according to White House spokesman Eric Schultz.
 
Despite the hardened opposition from Senate Republicans, White House officials insist there is no Plan B to hold off on Garland's nomination.
 
“We expect Chief Judge Garland to be confirmed in this Congress. Period," Schultz said.
 
News of Garland’s selection leaked out after Obama held a conference call with Democrats on the Judiciary Committee.
 
Obama called Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellSenate heading for late night ahead of ObamaCare repeal showdown Live Coverage: Senate edges close to passing scaled-down ObamaCare repeal Demonstrators gather outside Capitol to protest GOP ObamaCare repeal MORE (R-Ky.) on Wednesday morning. The GOP leader reiterated his position that the Senate will not hold hearings or votes on the nominee.
 
“We think the people should choose, as we’ve said repeatedly,” McConnell told reporters after the call.
 
Republicans argue an Obama pick would undoubtedly shift the balance of the court to the left and want the next president to decide Scalia's successor. 
 
In Garland, Obama is putting forth a candidate he says is deserving of GOP support.  
 
The 63-year-old judge has built a reputation as a moderate who is well-liked by Republicans. His professional résumé is similar to many justices already on the high court. 
 
The judge has proven to be confirmable in a Republican-controlled Senate. The upper chamber in 1997 voted 76-23 to confirm him. Thirty-two Republicans joined the majority, seven of whom are still in office.
 
The D.C. Circuit has long been considered a stepping stone to the high court. Three current justices — as well as Scalia — served there previously.
 
Garland was a top contender for the last Supreme Court opening in 2010, which Obama ultimately filled with his then-solicitor general, Elena Kagan. 
 
Hatch, a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, said at the time he would help Garland get confirmed if he was nominated — as Obama noted when he nominated Garland on Wednesday.
 
"I have no doubts that Garland would get a lot of [Senate] votes,” Hatch, a former chairman of the panel, told Reuters then. “And I will do my best to help him get them."
 
Hatch on Sunday called Garland a "fine man" and suggested Obama should nominate him. 
 
"[Obama] could easily name Merrick Garland, who is a fine man," the senator told the conservative news site Newsmax
 
"He probably won’t do that because this appointment is about the election," he added. "So I’m pretty sure he’ll name someone the [liberal Democratic base] wants."
 
Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidConservative Senate candidate calls on GOP to end filibuster Ex-Reid aide: McConnell's 'original sin' was casting ObamaCare as 'partisan, socialist takeover' GOP faces growing demographic nightmare in West MORE (D-Nev.) called Garland "an exceptionally qualified and consensus nominee" and pressed Republicans to fold on their current Supreme Court strategy. 
 
"I do hope they will do their constitutional duty and give President Obama's nominee a meeting, a hearing and a vote. He's doing his job this morning," he said. "The Republicans should do theirs from this point forward." 

There were signs Wednesday the White House’s effort to line up supporters behind Garland is well underway. 

Prominent labor leaders, such as AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and AFSCME’s Lee Saunders, were spotted in the Rose Garden. 

Senate Democratic leaders and members of the judiciary committee were also on hand for the announcement, as was Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Rep. G.K. ButterfieldG.K. ButterfieldDems push back against anti-Pelosi insurgents Dems divided on Trump attack strategy for 2018 Overnight Tech: Black lawmakers press Uber on diversity | Google faces record EU fine | Snap taps new lobbyist | New details on FCC cyberattack MORE (D-N.C.) and Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), a senior African-American lawmaker. 

But no Republicans attended the ceremony, a sign of the bruising fight to come over Garland’s nomination. 

Trumka said he had initially heard Obama would select someone else but added his labor federation will support Garland.
 
“He’s a great judge. I had not heard Merrick is going to be appointed,” he said. “Merrick Garland’s a great judge, and we would support him.”
 
Garland’s experience could be appealing to members on both sides of the aisle.
 
He clerked for Supreme Court Justice William Brennan, who was appointed by Republican President Dwight Eisenhower but went on to lead the court’s liberal wing, and Second Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Henry Friendly, another Eisenhower appointee under whom Chief Justice John Roberts also clerked.
 
During his service as a federal prosecutor, he oversaw cases involving the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski. 
 
Despite his lengthy résumé, Garland is somewhat of a surprise pick for Obama, who has valued racial, ethnic and professional diversity in his past judicial picks. 
 
Garland is a white male who would not add religious diversity to the bench — he is Jewish. At 63, he would be one of the oldest people ever to be confirmed to the high court. Like five other current justices, Garland graduated from Harvard.
 
Garland’s lengthy paper trail built up over almost two decades on the federal bench could also give Republicans ample opportunity to find objectionable views.
 
The Senate confirmed Garland to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals in 1997 by a vote of 76-23. But McConnell and current Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyHow do you get lower cost drugs? Give the FDA a bigger stick GOP senator warns of 'holy hell to pay' if Trump fires Sessions GOP senator warns Trump: Panel won't take up attorney general nominee this year MORE (R-Iowa) both voted against him.
 
Republicans argued Wednesday that it would be relatively easy to oppose Garland because McConnell and Grassley were on record against him nearly 20 years ago.
 
A senior GOP aide argued that Obama’s decision to pick the oldest judge on his short list shows that he doesn’t have much hope of getting the pick confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate.
 
Seven Republicans who voted to confirm Garland to the circuit court are still in the Senate: Sens. Dan CoatsDan CoatsIntelligence chairman accuses Obama aides of hundreds of unmasking requests Overnight Cybersecurity: Kushner says no collusion, improper contacts with Russia | House poised to vote on Russia sanctions | U.S., Japan to beef up cyber cooperation Trump intel chief: No agencies dispute Russian election meddling MORE (Ind.), Thad CochranThad CochranBoth sides of the aisle agree — telemedicine is the future Overnight Finance: GOP offers measure to repeal arbitration rule | Feds fine Exxon M for Russian sanctions violations | Senate panel sticks with 2017 funding levels for budget | Trump tax nominee advances | Trump unveils first reg agenda Senate committee ignores Trump, House budgets in favor of 2017 funding levels MORE (Miss.), Susan CollinsSusan CollinsSenate heading for late night ahead of ObamaCare repeal showdown GOP senators: House agreeing to go to conference on ObamaCare repeal Key senator backs 'skinny' ObamaCare repeal MORE (Maine), Orrin Hatch (Utah), James InhofeJames InhofeMcCain absence adds to GOP agenda’s uncertainty GOP signals infrastructure bill must wait Lobbying World MORE (Okla.), John McCainJohn McCainSenate heading for late night ahead of ObamaCare repeal showdown Two GOP senators back ObamaCare repeal after Ryan call McCain says Ryan's assurance on a healthcare bill is insufficient MORE (R-Ariz.) and Pat RobertsPat RobertsOvernight Healthcare: McConnell warns Senate not to block repeal debate | Insurers knock Cruz proposal | WH tries to discredit CBO | Lawmakers propose .1B NIH funding boost Trump: I’ll be ‘very angry’ if Senate doesn’t pass ObamaCare repeal bill Trump: Putin preferred Clinton in the White House MORE (R-Kan.).
 
 
Alexander Bolton, Jordain Carney and Jesse Byrnes contributed.
 
Updated at 1:08 p.m.