Sanders: Refusing hearing on Garland ‘unprecedented’

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSirota: Biden has not fulfilled campaign promise of combating union-busting tactics Democratic senators call on Biden to support waiving vaccine patents Progressives put Democrats on defense MORE (I-Vt.) on Wednesday slammed GOP senators, arguing that their resistance to considering Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland is a first in American history.

“Judge Garland is a strong nominee with decades of experience on the bench,” the Democratic presidential candidate said in a statement.

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“My Republican colleagues have called Judge Garland a ‘consensus nominee’ and said there is ‘no question’ he could be confirmed,” he said of the chief judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

“President Obama has done his job. It’s time for Republicans to do theirs. I call on Sen. [Chuck] Grassley [R-Iowa] and for [Senate Majority] Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPew poll: 50 percent approve of Democrats in Congress Pelosi on power in DC: 'You have to seize it' Progressives put Democrats on defense MORE [R-Ky.] to bring the nomination to [the] floor of the Senate if Judge Garland is approved by the Judiciary Committee.”

Obama on Wednesday announced Garland as his preferred replacement for Justice Antonin Scalia, who died unexpectedly last month at age 79. GOP senators have repeatedly opposed Obama naming Scalia’s successor, arguing that is a task best reserved for the next president.

McConnell and Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanOn The Money: Senate confirms Gensler to lead SEC | Senate GOP to face off over earmarks next week | Top Republican on House tax panel to retire Trump faces test of power with early endorsements Lobbying world MORE (R-Wis.) on Wednesday vowed Garland’s nomination has not weakened their resolve against conducting Senate hearings on Supreme Court candidates.

“The next justice could fundamentally alter the direction of the Supreme Court and have a profound impact on our country, so course the American people should have a say in the court’s direction,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.

Obama picked Garland in part because the judge was confirmed to his current post with bipartisan support in 1997.

McConnell and Grassley, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, both voted against Garland’s confirmation 19 years ago, however, suggesting they may take a similar position now.

Conservatives worry that Scalia’s death may tilt the balance of the Supreme Court justices toward a more liberal slant. Scalia, an openly right-wing judge, died in mid-February of natural causes during a hunting trip in Shafter, Texas.