Reid: GOP meetings with Garland are first signs of caving

Reid: GOP meetings with Garland are first signs of caving
© Greg Nash

Senate Democratic Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidBill O'Reilly: Politics helped kill Kate Steinle, Zarate just pulled the trigger Tax reform is nightmare Déjà vu for Puerto Rico Ex-Obama and Reid staffers: McConnell would pretend to be busy to avoid meeting with Obama MORE (Nev.) says the willingness of some Republicans to meet with Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland shows that GOP opposition is starting to crack. 

Reid on Thursday predicted that Republicans would eventually agree to hearings and a vote on Garland, whom President Obama nominated a day earlier.

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“The caving has already started. This may not sound like a great breakthrough, but we have a significant number of Republican senators [who] have said they’ll meet with him,” he said.

“I think that’s a breakthrough. It’s a breakthrough that they’ll sit down and talk to this good man.”

Garland has served nearly two decades on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the second-most powerful court in the nation, and he is viewed as politically moderate.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGrassley blasts Democrats over unwillingness to probe Clinton GOP and Dems bitterly divided by immigration Thanks to the farm lobby, the US is stuck with a broken ethanol policy MORE (R-Iowa) has signaled willingness to meet with Garland, as have six other Republicans: Sens. Mark KirkMark KirkHigh stakes as Trump heads to Hill Five things to watch for at Trump-Senate GOP meeting Giffords, Scalise highlight party differences on guns MORE (Ill.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Health Care: 3.6M signed up for ObamaCare in first month | Ryan pledges 'entitlement reform' next year | Dems push for more money to fight opioids Study: ObamaCare bills backed by Collins would lower premiums Right scrambles GOP budget strategy MORE (Maine), Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteExplaining Democratic victories: It’s gun violence, stupid Trump voter fraud panel member fights back against critics Dems plan to make gun control an issue in Nevada MORE (N.H.), Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Overnight Finance: House approves motion to go to tax conference — with drama | GOP leaders to consider Dec. 30 spending bill | Justices skeptical of ban on sports betting | Mulvaney won't fire official who sued him How four GOP senators guided a tax-bill victory behind the scenes MORE (Ohio), Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat Sasse: RNC help for Roy Moore 'doesn't make any sense' Sasse calls RNC decision to resume support for Moore 'bad' and 'sad' MORE (Ariz.) and James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeGOP senator on backing Moore: ‘It’s a numbers game’ Overnight Energy: Panel advances controversial Trump nominee | Ex-coal boss Blankenship to run for Senate | Dem commissioner joins energy regulator Senate panel advances controversial environmental nominee MORE (Okla.). 

But several — including Ayotte and Portman, who face tough reelection races in the fall — have made clear they will do so only as a courtesy. They are pledging to stick with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat McConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Brent Budowsky: A plea to Alabama voters MORE’s (R-Ky.) position that the nomination should not move until after the November elections.  

Reid dismissed the possibility of holding hearings and a vote on Garland in the lame-duck session after Election Day, something Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Ryan pledges 'entitlement reform' in 2018 Utah governor calls Bannon a 'bigot' after attacks on Romney MORE (R-Utah) suggested Wednesday.

“I think we should do it now. It’s unfair to have this man treated differently than anybody else,” he said.

Reid argued that the voters have a right to watch and hear Garland’s views examined during a committee hearing.

He said “of course it’s possible” that Garland would be confirmed in December, after the election, but he warned it would set a bad precedent for future Supreme Court nominations.

In 2013, Reid, who at the time was serving as Senate majority leader, triggered a controversial procedural tactic known as the "nuclear option" to exempt most judicial nominees from filibusters. 

But it did not apply to Supreme Court picks, who still must overcome 60-vote procedural hurdles before a vote on final confirmation.

Reid said he deliberately kept the 60-vote threshold for Supreme Court nominees in place to maintain the Senate’s tradition of giving even the most controversial candidates an up-or-down vote.

He noted that Democrats moved President Reagan’s most controversial nominee, Robert Bork, to the floor in 1987, when they controlled the chamber. Bork was defeated but nevertheless received full consideration.

Many Democrats also opposed Justice Clarence Thomas when President George H.W. Bush nominated him in 1991. Democrats, then in the majority, held a vote, and he won confirmation.

“I saved the supermajority [threshold] for Supreme Court on purpose to return to those days where we do what’s the right thing,” Reid said.

“Would we have been a better country — I shouldn’t answer my own question — if we filibustered Thomas? The decision was made not to and, at the time, it was the right thing to do,” he said.