Kansas senators Pat Roberts, Jerry Moran won’t consider Supreme Court nominee Merrick GarlandMarch 16, 2016
As President Barack Obama announced Wednesday he had chosen his next nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Kansas’ senators restated their opposition to approval of any applicants this year.
During a speech at the White House, Obama announced federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland is his choice to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, who died last month.
“People respect Merrick’s deep and abiding passion for protecting our most basic constitutional rights,” the president said.
Garland’s nomination faces an unusually steep incline as Republicans in the U.S. Senate have vowed to block any nominations to the court until a new president enters the White House in 2017.
“By nominating a replacement for Justice Scalia, President Obama is attempting to deny the American people a voice on the next Supreme Court justice,” said U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, a Republican. “The next justice will have an effect on the courts for decades to come and should not be rushed through by a lame-duck president during an election year.”
Roberts has been adamant in his opposition to consideration of any appointee, telling The Topeka Capital-Journal in the days after Scalia’s death that the next president should appoint Scalia’s replacement.
“This is not about the nominee, it is about giving the American people and the next president a role in selecting the next Supreme Court justice,” he said Wednesday.
U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, also a Republican, has taken a more tepid stance, preferring to predict what the Senate will do rather than say what it should do.
“Americans are already aware the Senate will not hold hearings or consider any Supreme Court nominee for the remainder of the year,” he said Wednesday. “It is difficult to imagine a path toward confirmation until a new president takes office.”
All members of the U.S. House from Kansas support the senators’ stance. Reps. Lynn Jenkins, Tim Huelskamp, Kevin Yoder and Mike Pompeo have said the Senate shouldn’t consider a Supreme Court nominee this year.
“Under the Constitution, just as the president has an obligation to put a nominee forward, the Senate has every right to reject that nominee,” Jenkins said Wednesday.
“This has never been about the person, but it is about a basic principle: Kansans and Americans should have a voice in determining the future direction of the court and our country,” Pompeo added.
Last week, University of Kansas law professors Joyce McCray Pearson and William Westerbeke joined 348 other law professors across the country in urging the Senate to consider the president’s nomination. To not do so would diminish “the integrity of our democratic institutions and the functioning of our constitutional government,” the professors wrote.
“When the President seeks the advice and consent of the Senate, it is their constitutional duty to do their jobs. Let’s get this done,” said Vice President Joe Biden in a statement.
Before Obama’s announcement, the White House created a Twitter account to put public pressure on Republicans opposed to considering a nominee. There have been 19 Supreme Court nominations during presidential election years, according to the White House, and five presidents have filled spots on the court after the next president was elected.
“In putting forward a nominee today, I am fulfilling my constitutional duty. I’m doing my job,” Obama said. “I hope that our senators will do their jobs, and move quickly to consider my nominee.”
Garland, 63, is chief judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He was approved by the Senate to that position in 1997 by a vote of 76-23.
At the time, Kansas’ senators split on Garland’s nomination, with Roberts voting in favor and then-Sen. Sam Brownback voting against.
The Senate has never taken more than 125 days to vote on a Supreme Court nominee. The last appointee, Elena Kagan, was confirmed 87 days after being nominated. Another Obama appointee, Sonia Sotomayor, was confirmed 66 days after nomination.
More than 300 days remain in Obama’s second term.
Justice Anthony Kennedy was the last justice to be approved during a president’s final year in office. He was confirmed by the Senate 65 days after being nominated by President Ronald Reagan. Scalia, who also was nominated by Reagan, was approved 85 days after nomination.
Merrick’s appointment comes as a disappointment to some in Kansas who hoped Obama would select Lawrence High School graduate Sri Srinivasan, Merrick’s colleague on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Srinivasan’s nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals in 2013 was unanimous, 97-0, with Moran and Roberts both voting in favor.