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 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 (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 GrassleyChuck GrassleyJill Stein looped into widening investigation of Russia and Trump Jr. connections Grassley calls on 'leaker' to release Sessions-Russia conversation Trump Jr., Manafort reach deal to avoid public hearing next week MORE (R-Iowa) has signaled willingness to meet with Garland, as have six other Republicans: Sens. Mark KirkMark KirkMcConnell: Senate to try to repeal ObamaCare next week GOP senator: Not 'appropriate' to repeal ObamaCare without replacement GOP's repeal-only plan quickly collapses in Senate MORE (Ill.), Susan CollinsSusan CollinsGOP wrestles with soaring deductibles in healthcare bill Sunday shows preview: Scaramucci makes TV debut as new communication chief The GOP Wonder Women who saved healthcare for 22 million MORE (Maine), Kelly AyotteKelly AyotteOPINION: Democracy will send ISIS to the same grave as communism Kelly Ayotte joins defense contractor's board of directors Week ahead: Comey firing dominates Washington MORE (N.H.), Rob PortmanRob PortmanOPINION | They told us to abandon ObamaCare — then came the resistance Regulatory experts push Senate leaders for regulatory reform Conservative group to give GOP healthcare holdouts ‘Freedom Traitors Award’ MORE (Ohio), Jeff FlakeJeff FlakeMcCain’s primary challenger asks him to step aside after diagnosis Sen. Flake's GOP challenger: McCain should resign Senators who have felt McCain's wrath talk of their respect for him MORE (Ariz.) and James InhofeJames InhofeMcCain absence adds to GOP agenda’s uncertainty GOP signals infrastructure bill must wait Lobbying World 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 McConnellMitch McConnellCruz: Tax reform chances ‘drop significantly’ if healthcare fails Parliamentarian deals setback to GOP repeal bill OPINION | How Democrats stole the nation's lower federal courts 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 HatchSenate panel advances Trump's tax policy nominee Healthcare debacle raises pressure for GOP on taxes GOP frets over stalled agenda 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.