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 Mason ReidTrump presses GOP to change Senate rules Only thing Defense’s UFO probe proves is power of political favors Nevada Democrat accused of sexual harassment reconsiders retirement: report 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.

“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 GrassleyGOP senator blocking Trump's Intel nominee GOP leaders to Trump: Leave Mueller alone GOP leaders back second special counsel MORE (R-Iowa) has signaled willingness to meet with Garland, as have six other Republicans: Sens. Mark KirkMark Steven 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 CollinsGOP leaders to Trump: Leave Mueller alone Overnight Defense: Senate sides with Trump on military role in Yemen | Dem vets push for new war authorization on Iraq anniversary | General says time isn't 'right' for space corps Overnight Health Care: House leaves out ObamaCare fix from funding bill | Trump appointees pushed to end teen pregnancy program | Key Dem raises concerns over potential CDC pick MORE (Maine), Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteAudit finds US Defense Department wasted hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars US sends A-10 squadron to Afghanistan for first time in three years No, the US did not spend million on a gas station in Afghanistan MORE (N.H.), Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanGOP leaders to Trump: Leave Mueller alone Misinformation campaign is at the center of opposition to common sense sex trafficking legislation This week: Congress races to prevent third shutdown MORE (Ohio), Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeSteyer brings his push to impeach Trump to town halls across the nation Flake: I'd back impeaching Trump if he fired Mueller 'without cause' Water has experienced a decade of bipartisan success MORE (Ariz.) and James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeSenators to Trump: Keep pressure on North Korea while exploring talks Why did this administration back the Palestine Liberation Organization in terrorism case? Overnight Defense: Top general says countering Iran in Syria isn't US mission | Trump, Boeing reach 'informal' agreement for new Air Force One | Chair warns of Russian mercenaries in Syria 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 senator blocking Trump's Intel nominee Spending bill delay raises risk of partial government shutdown support GOP leaders to Trump: Leave Mueller alone 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 HatchNew kid on the tech block Senate GOP: Legislation to protect Mueller not needed Week ahead: Lawmakers scramble to avoid another shutdown 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.