WASHINGTON — The White House today borrowed the campaign-trail term “deplorable” to describe not voters but lawmakers who have blocked President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee.
There have been no hearings for Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland, who was picked in March to replace late Justice Antonin Scalia.
Senate Republicans argued that the next president should get to pick the lifetime judicial post, while Dems argued that Obama is still president and has the right for his nominee to get a hearing and a vote. Some are pressuring Obama to use the power of a recess appointment between the adjournment of the 114th Congress and the beginning of the 115th Congress to place Garland on the High Court.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters at today’s briefing that “you can certainly be sure that President Obama will continue to have Chief Judge Garland’s back until the end of this congressional session.”
“The president believes strongly that Chief Judge Garland is the best person in America to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court; that’s why the president nominated him. Presumably, there are some Republicans who agree,” Earnest said. “They agree for a variety of reasons. They agree in part because Chief Judge Garland is the most experienced Supreme Court nominee in American history. He spent 19 years on the federal judiciary and no one can call into question his qualifications.”
“Certainly the nonpartisan American Bar Association didn’t call into question his qualifications; they rated him unanimously well-qualified for the job. You had Republicans who in the past had described Chief Judge Garland as a consensus nominee, as somebody who is going to set aside his own political leanings and focus on a judge’s responsibility to interpret the law.”
Earnest called it “disgraceful the way that the Republicans in the United States Senate treated him.”
“Even setting aside their absolute failure to fulfill their basic responsibility as elected officials, as elected representatives of the American people in the United States Senate,” he said. “So, this is a — his treatment, and the way that this situation is likely to end, is a scar on the institution of the United States Senate. And it is a scar that I do not anticipate will go away quickly. And that is rather unfortunate.”
Asked if Obama will resubmit Garland’s nomination in the January gap between congresses, Earnest replied, “I don’t have anything to preview at this point about whether or not the president would resubmit his nomination, but obviously the president I think shares my — I’m confident, shares my view that the Senate’s treatment of Chief Judge Garland is deplorable.”
Incoming Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told NBC this weekend that he’s going to “pray for that miracle” that Garland’s nomination gets brought up during the lame-duck session.
Schumer said if President-elect Trump “doesn’t nominate a mainstream candidate, we’re going to go at him with everything we have — or her.”
“Now, you know, Senator McConnell has said ‘let’s not use the filibuster.’ But they don’t come with clean hands, having delayed Merrick Garland for a whole year and, furthermore, I was the person when the rules were changed back a few years ago, when Leader Reid changed the rules. I said, let’s not do the Supreme Court,” Schumer said.
“We should have 60 votes — which we still do — because we should get bipartisan support. So I hope both President Trump and Leader McConnell will recognize those facts.”