Garland’s Treatment Will Permanently Scar Senate: Earnest

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By Cheryl Bolen

The unprecedented and unfair treatment of Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, will leave a lasting scar on the Senate and could undercut incoming President Donald Trump’s nominee, Obama’s spokesman said.

“Republicans opposed him, not because of anything that Chief Judge Garland ever said or did, but because he simply was nominated by a Democratic president, and that is going to undermine any principled argument that Republican senators may make in support of President Trump’s nominee,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said.

This will make for an interesting and “lengthy” confirmation process this year, Earnest told reporters at a breakfast hosted by The Christian Science Monitor.

Trump is expected to announce his choice for the Supreme Court within weeks, and conservative groups that had worked to block Obama’s nominee already are pledging millions of dollars to support Trump’s nomination.

Politics Over Country

Earnest said that outside interest groups have a clear mandate to pursue the judicial philosophy they support and have been consistent, so their mission is not surprising.

“What was profoundly disappointing is that you had senators with a very different mandate—who swore an oath to do something different—but pursued the same kind of political strategy that put the interests of their party ahead of the interests of the country,” Earnest said.

The unprecedented injection of partisan politics into the selection of the Supreme Court nominee was bad for the country, the criminal justice system and democracy, he said.

Will Undermine Credibility

The Republican tactic of the “ends justify the means” not only will leave a scar, but will “undermine badly” the credibility of Republican senators as they advocate for Trump’s nominee, Earnest said.

Republicans did not evaluate Garland on the merits, Earnest said. They acknowledged that Garland was the most experienced nominee in history and had spent more time on the federal bench than any other nominee, he said.

Republicans had praised Garland, who has “impeccable legal credentials,” as exactly the kind of person who deserved bipartisan support, Earnest said.

Proved to Be Good Politics

Looking ahead, if Democrats were in a position to filibuster the nomination of Trump’s nominee, that would mean that Trump’s nominee got a hearing and was put up for a vote on the Senate floor, Earnest said.

That would mean the career, quality, competence and character of Trump’s nominee would have been considered, Earnest said.

“Republicans in the Senate didn’t do any of those things with regard to Merrick Garland,” he said. “They didn’t give him a hearing, they didn’t give him a vote and they didn’t consider him based on the qualities that he would bring to the job.”

If the Senate had done that, Garland would have been confirmed, Earnest said.

“They made a political decision that confirming Chief Judge Garland to the Supreme Court would be bad politics,” he said. “That is the only reason they did what they did. And that is an abdication of their basic responsibilities as U.S. senators, but it proved to be good politics for them.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Cheryl Bolen in Washington at cbolen@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at phendrie@bna.com

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