President Obama on Wednesday nominated Merrick Garland to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court and fill the vacancy left by Justice Antonin Scalia’s passing in February. Garland has served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit for the past 19 years, and has been the court’s chief judge since 2013.
“In choosing Chief Judge Garland to fill this vacancy, President Obama has demonstrated his commitment to the Constitution and our democracy to make sure that the Supreme Court is fully equipped to serve our nation with its full complement of nine justices,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “Judge Garland is the most well-prepared Supreme Court nominee in generations. From Supreme Court clerk, to the Justice Department, to the private sector, to overseeing the prosecutions of the Oklahoma City bombers, to Chief Judge of the D.C. Circuit, Garland has more federal judicial experience than any nominee in history. His 1997 bipartisan confirmation was supported by seven sitting Republican Senators: Dan Coats, Thad Cochran, Susan Collins, Orrin Hatch, James Inhofe, John McCain, and Pat Roberts.”
Immediately following Scalia’s death, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R. Ky., released a statement saying the vacancy shouldn’t be filled until Americans elect a new president. Ten days later, every member of the Senate Judiciary Committee signed a letter to McConnell vowing not to consider any nominee until a new president is sworn in on January 20, 2017.
Senate Democrats and advocates across the country have rejected that position for weeks, saying it would be an abdication of their constitutional responsibility not to at least consider the president’s nominee. In his announcement Wednesday morning, Obama agreed.
“I have fulfilled my constitutional duty. Now it’s time for the Senate to do theirs,” Obama said. “Presidents do not stop working in the final year of their term. Neither should a senator.”
Henderson urged the Senate to provide a fair hearing and a timely vote on Garland.
“Filling this vacancy should absolutely be a priority for the Senate. Now that the president has done his job, it’s time for Senate Republicans to drop their unprecedented and destructive blockade on any nominee. To do otherwise would create a constitutional crisis and handcuff all three branches of government,” Henderson said.
To learn more about Judge Garland and the history of Supreme Court nominations, click here.