The Slatest

Garland Watch: The Senate Judiciary Committee Did Literally Nothing This Week

U.S. Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.
Merrick Garland, hands clasped and waiting. 

Alex Wong/Getty Images

On Thursday morning, Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, rather unconventionally, delivered a public speech at an annual breakfast in honor of Washington law firms that engage in pro-bono work. Speaking for just about five minutes, Garland addressed a crowd of more than 100 lawyers and judges. He reminded his audience, “[by] helping to provide access to justice for the underprivileged all of you are helping to shore up the rule of the law that is the foundation of a just society.”

Much like the man himself, Garland’s comments were pretty much unobjectionable. However, it was the very act of giving a public speech that was so noteworthy. While it’s unlikely that Garland will wholly break with protocol for Supreme Court nominees and begin giving television interviews, this speech at a legal event seemed to be a stand against the indefatigable GOP obstruction-complex that has been blocking his nomination. So what has the GOP been doing in the now 37 days since Garland was nominated to the high court? Not much. But unlike the previous four weeks, Garland went on the offensive this week—and public pressure seems to be turning further in his favor.

Recent data, from Democratic pollster Peter Hart, shows that public opinion has been shifting in favor of Garland over the past three months. The public appeared to be starkly divided along partisan lines in February over whether Garland should get a hearing. However, Hart’s data now shows a 9 percent increase in those who believe a nominee should be voted on this year. What’s more is that this change appears to be coming from shifting opinions of those identifying as Republican.

Given that the GOP’s most important objective, in the words of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has been to “give [the American people] a voice” on the Supreme Court nomination, the new polling seems to be an indication of the direction that voice is leaning. It also seems as though awareness of the GOP’s blatantly political obstructionism is increasing. Democrats have been eagerly distributing data from a new WMUR poll that shows New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s favorability ratings dropping—in part due to her position on Garland. Approximately 60 percent of New Hampshire voters believe that Garland deserves a hearing while only 34 percent of voters agree that Senate Republicans are doing the right thing.

Republicans are continuing to at least deign to meet the man, but really that’s all they are doing. This week, the nominee met with GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, and John Hoeven, of North Dakota. In a post-meeting interview with CNN, Graham said the meeting was not “awkward,” but he still believed that Garland had less than “a snowball’s chance in hell” of getting a hearing. Sen. Hoeven, in less flamboyant language, echoed those sentiments.

It is worth noting that the Senate Judiciary Committee did not hold any hearings this week. The committee postponed a hearing on the Crime Victims Fund that was originally scheduled for this Tuesday, but there was nothing else on the schedule. One can’t help but wonder if there was a better way to spend that free time than by doing literally nothing?