Mar 17 2016
WASHINGTON — Alabama Senators Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby already have a history of voting against President Obama’s nominee to replace Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia.
Wednesday morning, President Obama announced Merrick Garland, 63, as his nomination for Scalia’s open seat on the Supreme Court. Garland, currently the chief judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, is widely respected by both Republicans and Democrats.
In an email sent out before the announcement, President Obama praised Garland for his “independent mind, unimpeachable credentials, and an unquestionable mastery of law.”
“I’ve selected a nominee who is widely recognized not only as one of America’s sharpest legal minds, but someone who brings to his work a spirit of decency, modesty, integrity, evenhandedness and excellence,” Obama said this morning in the Rose Garden. “These qualities and his long commitment to public service have earned him the respect and admiration of leaders from both sides of the aisle.”
The Senate confirmed Garland to his D.C. Circuit seat in 1997 with a 76-23 vote. Twelve Republicans who voted in 1997 are still serving today, and five of them voted against Garland – including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, and both Alabama Senators, Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions.
Senator Shelby made a statement this morning in response to Garland’s nomination where he reaffirmed his position to not take any action on any nominee by President Obama.
“President Obama and I strongly disagree on which direction to take our nation, and I believe that we should do everything in our power to block him from further damaging the future of America,” he said. “Rather than nominating an individual who will preserve the conservative legacy of the late Antonin Scalia, President Obama is attempting to solidify his liberal agenda by drastically changing the direction of the Court for decades to come. This critical decision should be made after the upcoming presidential election so that the American people have a voice. I am adamantly opposed to any Senate action on President Obama’s nomination of Judge Garland to the Supreme Court, and I urge my conservative colleagues to join me.”
The prior opposition from powerful Senators will make a stronger case for the GOP to deny Garland a hearing this time around.
“This is an easy one. Both our Leader and Judiciary Chairman voted against him when he was confirmed before,” said one senior Republican aide. “And it’s a clear recognition by the White House that we mean what we say: there will be no confirmation. If they thought we were going to cave, they would have put up a much different candidate.”
Some are already questioning Garland’s record on the D.C. Circuit court, specifically when it comes to the Second Amendment. In 2007, Garland was part of a three-judge panel that struck down a law passed in the District of Columbia banning the possession of individual handguns. But Garland and Judge David Tatel voted to have the full court reconsider that decision. The case, D.C. vs. Heller, ultimately went to the Supreme Court, which supported the individual right to bear arms.
Some of Garland’s other decisions show somewhat of a centrist record. He sided with the Bush administration in 2003 on a case prohibiting Guantanamo Bay prisoners from seeking relief in civilian courts. But cases like this will probably not be enough for the Senate to give him any consideration now.
For Garland to be confirmed, Senate Democrats will have to convince at least 14 Republicans to shut down the inevitable filibuster. Five Republicans will also have to be convinced to vote with Democrats for the confirmation.