White House defends Garland from Sanders

The White House on Friday defended Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, whose record has come under new scrutiny from Democratic presidential candidate Bernie SandersBernie SandersOvernight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — Study finds Pfizer vaccine almost 91 percent effective for 5 to 11 year olds The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Manchin, Sanders in budget feud; Biden still upbeat Democratic frustration with Sinema rises MORE.

Asked whether Garland would overturn the Citizens United campaign finance decision, a litmus test issue for the Vermont senator, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said President Obama did not ask Garland how he would rule in specific cases.

Obama has instead chosen to “consider the jurisprudence of potential nominees," Earnest said, adding “his approach to the law is consistent with what the framers of our Constitution intended.”

ADVERTISEMENT

“I don’t know what that means for how he would rule in a hypothetical case in the future. But I do know the president has complete confidence that that Chief Judge Garland would … interpret the law, not seek to advance a political agenda.”

Obama is battling with Senate Republicans over whether to consider Garland’s nomination in an election year.

But he’s also had to contend with Sanders, who has repeatedly said he wants to make his own pick to fill the court vacancy if he’s elected president.

“If elected president, I would ask the president to withdraw that nomination,” Sanders said Thursday at a primary debate in Brooklyn.

Obama said last week he will stick by Garland until his last day in office, no matter who is elected to succeed him.

As a senator, Sanders said he backs the D.C. Circuit Court judge’s nomination and blasted Republicans for their election-year court blockade.

“A third-grader in America understands the president of the United States has the right to nominate individuals to the U.S. Supreme Court,” he said. “Apparently everybody understands that except the Republicans in Congress.”

But he also said he would want to name a judge who would vote to overturn the Citizens United campaign finance decisions.

“I think that we need a Supreme Court justice who will make it crystal clear, and this nominee has not yet done that, crystal clear that he or she will vote to overturn Citizens United and make sure that American democracy is not undermined,” he said.

The self-proclaimed Democratic socialist has run to the left of Obama's record on a number of issues, including healthcare and income inequality.

Democratic front-runner Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonI voted for Trump in 2020 — he proved to be the ultimate RINO in 2021 Neera Tanden tapped as White House staff secretary Meghan McCain: 'SNL' parodies made me feel like 'laughing stock of the country' MORE was coy about whether she would follow Sanders and ask Obama to withdraw Garland to make her own pick.

“I am not going to contradict the president's strategy on this and I'm not going to engage in hypotheticals,” she said. “I fully support the president.”

She said Obama is “on the right side” of history in nominating a successor to the late Justice Antonin Scalia, but added “when I am president, I will take stock of where we are and move from there.”