WASHINGTON (UPI) — Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk will be the first Republican to break party ranks and meet with U.S. Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, the lawmaker’s office said Friday.
So far, Senate Republicans have said they refuse to meet with the Washington, D.C., appellate judge concerning the high court post — as part of the GOP’s fight against President Barack Obama appointing the third Supreme Court justice of his administration.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has repeatedly stated that the upper chamber won’t provide any hearings for Garland because they believe it inappropriate for Obama to nominate a successor for the late Antonin Scalia when he has just 10 months remaining in office.
A handful of GOP lawmakers, though, have indicated in recent weeks that they might deviate from the Republicans’ path and give Garland a fair shake at the high court post — including Sens. Kirk, Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., Susan Collins, R-Me., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.
“I feel I would want to explain my position to the nominee,” Ayotte said last week. “He does serve on the Circuit Court of Appeals, so I want to give him that courtesy.”
Kirk has scheduled a meeting with Garland for Tuesday, his office and the White House each confirmed Friday, and previously told a Chicago radio station that his GOP colleagues should “man up and cast a vote.”
Kirk’s scheduling the meeting probably isn’t surprising. Last month, he stated publicly that Obama has a right to nominate a justice to fill Scalia’s seat on the bench because that’s what the Constitution allows for.
“Now more than ever, we must all focus on that shared common goal as we deal with the super-heated partisan rhetoric following the tragic loss of a great American, Antonin Scalia,” he wrote in an op-ed in the Chicago Sun-Times. “I recognize the right of the president, be it Republican or Democrat, to place before the Senate a nominee for the Supreme Court and I fully expect and look forward to President Barack Obama advancing a nominee for the Senate to consider.”
Garland, who was nominated last week, is already set to meet with several Democratic senators Monday. He has already met with five.
Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden slammed the GOP’s continuing efforts to stall Garland’s nomination, saying they are shirking their constitutional duties.
“Chief Judge Garland deserves a hearing, just as a simple matter of fairness,” he told a group of law students at Georgetown University. “The bonds that held our diverse republic together for the past 229 years are being frayed, and you all know it — whether you’re Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative. Everybody knows it. The world knows it.”
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