Garland could be stuck in Senate limbo for several more weeks

Merrick GarlandMerrick GarlandBad week in Trumpland signals hope for American democracy Threats of violence spark fear of election worker exodus DOJ sues Texas over Abbott order restricting transportation of migrants MORE, President Biden’s choice to head the Justice Department, could be in Senate limbo for several more weeks as Republicans say they will not agree to process Biden’s nominees during this week’s budget debate or next week’s impeachment trial.

It’s an eerie sense of déjà vu for Garland, whose nomination to the Supreme Court was bottled up in the Senate for nearly a year in 2016, when Republicans refused to give him a hearing because they argued the winner of that year’s presidential election should fill the vacancy left by the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia.

Newly minted Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick DurbinDick DurbinCongress should butt out of Supreme Court's business Inmates grapple with uncertainty over Biden prison plan Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire MORE (D-Ill.) says he will ask for consent from Republicans to hold a hearing for Garland on Feb. 8, but he’s not expected to get it, as he would need consent from Republican members of the Judiciary Committee to waive committee rules requiring hearings be noticed a week in advance.

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“I’m going to see if Sen. Grassley and I can reach an agreement,” Durbin said, referring to Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyBiden names new watchdog at finance agency after embattled IG departs McConnell warns Democrats against 'artificial timeline' for infrastructure deal Biden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet MORE (R-Iowa), who is taking over as the ranking minority member of the Judiciary panel.

Republicans are blaming Democrats for Garland’s holdup, arguing that their decision to move ahead with a partisan budget resolution — which would allow the Senate to pass a COVID-19 relief bill with a simple-majority vote later this year — and hold a second impeachment trial for former President TrumpDonald TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - White House, Dems play blame game over evictions The Memo: Left pins hopes on Nina Turner in Ohio after recent defeats Biden administration to keep Trump-era rule of turning away migrants during pandemic MORE will force them to object to other business.

“The Democrats have chosen the agenda and they’ve chosen to do the budget resolution, so if there’s delay in nomination it’s because it’s their choice,” said Sen. John CornynJohn CornynGOP skepticism looms over bipartisan spending deal Biden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet Senate votes to take up infrastructure deal MORE (R-Texas).

Cornyn said it would take unanimous consent to process Biden nominees during the budget debate and added “it can’t be during the impeachment.”

“That’s what I don’t understand, frankly, about some of the decisions they make, because while they’re saying they need to get the administration up and running and get some people confirmed, they are the single biggest impediment to that happening." 

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The Senate is scheduled to take a recess during the week of Feb. 15, which means that Garland may not win confirmation until the last week of February.

Durbin said that could pose a threat to national security.

“It’s the last major element of our national security team. I think it should be a high priority,” he said.

Senate Veterans Affairs’ Committee Chairman Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterGraham's COVID-19 'breakthrough' case jolts Senate This week: Senate starts infrastructure sprint Senators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session MORE (D-Mont.) said Tuesday that Republicans have shut down the processing of Biden’s nominees over the next two weeks before the recess.

That means that Denis McDonoughDenis Richard McDonoughThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Crunch time for bipartisan plan; first Jan. 6 hearing today Overnight Defense: Biden says US combat mission in Iraq wrapping by year's end | Civilian casualties in Afghanistan peak amid US exit | VA mandates COVID-19 vaccine for health workers Overnight Health Care: New round of vaccine mandates | Health groups call for mandates for all health workers | Rising case count reignites debate over restrictions MORE, Biden’s choice to head the Department of Veterans Affairs, could also be in limbo. His nomination unanimously out of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

“I talked to Chuck about it ... McConnell said we’re not going to do any noms during budget resolution or impeachment,” Tester said, referring to the message Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - White House, Dems play blame game over evictions GOP skepticism looms over bipartisan spending deal On The Money: Biden, Pelosi struggle with end of eviction ban | Trump attorney says he will fight release of tax returns MORE (R-Ky.) relayed to Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerPoll: Majority of voters say more police are needed amid rise in crime America's middle class is getting hooked on government cash — and Democrats aren't done yet The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate finalizes .2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill MORE (D-N.Y.).

“Other than just because he can do that, I don’t know why he would do that,” Tester said of McConnell blocking Biden’s nominees from the floor over the next two weeks.