Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) slammed Democrats Tuesday for linking an ongoing battle over the Supreme Court to the 21st anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing.
"Today is not about the Supreme Court, it’s about the victims, the survivors and the first responders. April 19 is a time to remember, not a time for political games," Lankford said in a statement.
His comments come after top Democrats repeatedly highlighted Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland's effort on the investigation of the bombing and overseeing the prosecution of bomber Timothy McVeigh.
Discussing Garland's work, Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahySenate Judiciary squares off over John Lewis voting rights bill Senate Democrats introduce legislation to strengthen Voting Rights Act 92 legal scholars call on Harris to preside over Senate to include immigration in reconciliation MORE (D-Vt.) said, "As we remember the victims, their families and the entire Oklahoma City community, let's remember the good the Senate has done and put aside destructive partisanship and come together to act for the good of the country."
During his speech Leahy, the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, stood next to a photo of a fire fighter holding a toddler who was killed in the bombing. He noted he has "never forgotten" the photograph.
Lankford, however, suggested Democrats were trying to use the child and the anniversary as a "prop."
"I'm absolutely offended, and I should be," he said in a separate floor speech.
Leahy wasn't the only Democrat to discuss Garland's work on the investigation and prosecution, considered a defining moment of his career.
Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidDemocrats brace for tough election year in Nevada The Memo: Biden's horizon is clouded by doubt Fight over Biden agenda looms large over Virginia governor's race MORE (D-Nev.) said it shows "the kind of man that Merrick Garland is."
"That's why it's so disappointing the Republicans are denying this good man a public hearing. And we know why they're afraid to do a public hearing, because the American people would see what a fine man he is and demand that there be a vote," he added.
Reid, in a separate floor speech, singled out Lankford, saying the Oklahoma senator has "made it clear that he will do nothing to help Judge Garland get a hearing or a vote."
Sen. Charles SchumerChuck SchumerHispanic organizations call for Latino climate justice in reconciliation Senate to vote next week on Freedom to Vote Act To Win 2022: Go big on reconciliation and invest in Latinx voters MORE (D-N.Y.) added that, "Judge Garland showed up to do his job in Oklahoma City. It's time for the Republicans to do their job here in the Senate."
Lankford said Democrats were trying to suggest that Garland earned a seat on the Supreme Court because of his work.
"He doesn't deserve a lifetime on the bench because of his faithful service to our country and community, as is being alluded to," he said. "The politics of it really, really deeply struck me as an Oklahoman that for some reason today, of all days, the tragedy that happened of 168 people and their death 21 years ago suddenly became paraded out here as a political prop."
Tuesday's comments come as senators are locked in a battle over the Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
Lankford noted that he's planning to meet with Garland next week. In addition to reiterating the GOP position that the seat should stay vacant until next year, he said he would "look him in the face and say, thank you for your service to Oklahoma."