Merrick Garland is scheduled to head to Capitol Hill on Thursday afternoon, where he’ll receive a warm welcome from Harry Reid and other Senate Democrats. President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, though, won’t get a welcome—cold or otherwise—from leading Republicans.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke with Garland by phone on Wednesday afternoon following his nomination and told him not to bother stopping by. Here’s the official readout of the call from McConnell’s office:
The Leader reiterated his position that the American people will have a voice in this vacancy and that the Senate will appropriately revisit the matter when it considers the qualifications of the person the next President nominates. And since the Senate will not be acting on this nomination, he would not be holding a perfunctory meeting, but he wished Judge Garland well.
Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley is also declining to meet with Garland during his visit—though his office left the door open for some possible face time once the Senate returns to work in April after its upcoming two-week recess. According to the Associated Press, at least six other GOP senators suggested they are open to meeting Garland as well, though it was unclear when or even if such meetings would ultimately happen: Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Rob Portman of Ohio, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Susan Collins of Maine, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, and Orrin Hatch of Utah. The first two are both fighting for re-election this fall, while the last three previously voted to confirm Garland to his current position on a federal appellate court back in 1997. (Flake has gone the furthest, suggesting he’d even consider voting for Garland in a lame-duck session in the event that Hillary Clinton is elected in November.)
Hatch, a senior member on the judiciary panel, has found himself in a particularly awkward place. Just last week, he named Garland as the person he hoped Obama would nominate, and back in 2010 suggested a Garland nomination would sail through the Senate. And yet on Thursday, the most Hatch or any other leading Republican is willing to do for a sitting federal judge who has been nominated to the highest court in the land by the president of the United States of America is say that they’d be willing to meet with him when they get around to it.