President Barack Obama nominated appeals court judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court on March 16. The nomination is widely considered to be a profoundly symbolic move by Obama; something of a peace offering to the Republican-dominated Senate. However, the Republican reaction to Garland’s nomination is incredibly telling of the inflexibility of the party throughout the course of Obama’s presidency.
So what exactly is the party’s problem with Garland? He is more than qualified for the job–Garland is a 19-year veteran of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, and graduated with high honors from Harvard Law School. Interestingly, he also has a history of being moderate, which may be the reason Obama nominated him in the first place: to seek the possibility of approval from Republicans in the Senate, rather than being blocked from any course of action (which is the recent trend of events). Garland received very high regards from notable Republicans when he was nominated to the Court of Appeals in the 90’s.
“Merrick B. Garland is highly qualified to sit on the D.C. circuit. His intelligence and his scholarship cannot be questioned … His legal experience is equally impressive … Accordingly, I believe Mr. Garland is a fine nominee … I believe he is not only a fine nominee, but is as good as Republicans can expect from this administration. In fact, I would place him at the top of the list,” the current president of the Senate Orrin Hatch once said.
Ironically, Hatch wrote an Opinions piece for the New York Times on March 28 claiming, “Considering a nominee in the midst of a toxic presidential election would be irresponsible. Doing so would only further inject a circus atmosphere into an already politicized confirmation process.”
For the record, he wrote the article with the knowledge that Garland, someone who is respected across party lines and previously praised by Hatch himself, was the nominee, and then used the recycled claim that Obama should wait and leave the nomination to the next president. Many Republican Senators, including John McCain (Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), and Thom Tillis (N.C.) have all made similar claims that Obama should allow the next president to nominate a judge instead.
But why exactly are Republicans so vehemently opposed to Garland? Are they simply afraid of approving anything that Obama proposes? Honestly, this is most likely the case. Consider this: the next president is, statistically, likely going to be a Democrat–one even more liberal than Obama. So why would Republicans risk leaving it to the next president? Who is to say that Democrats wouldn’t block a strictly conservative nominee made by the GOP, given the slim chance that a Republican president would even be elected in the first place? The stubborn new identity of the GOP has blocked 500 pieces of legislation proposed by Obama aimed at aiding the middle class. With this continued attitude of personal concern over productive creation and regulation of law, our political system is becoming more and more corrupt, and I see in our future an eventual collapse of the two-party-dominant democracy.