The Slatest

Garland Watch: Senate Democrats Held a Shadow Hearing and Nobody Noticed

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What did the Senate do this week? Oh right, not much.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

It’s been 65 days since Merrick Garland was nominated to the Supreme Court, and Senate Republicans continue to block that nomination from even receiving a hearing. Garland Watch is a regular look at the week in Garland news and Senate obstruction.

On Wednesday, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump announced his list of potential replacements for the late Justice Antonin Scalia. In doing so, he stole what seemed like the last remaining glimmers of the dull spotlight that was once, if ever, shown on Merrick Garland.

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Trump’s shortlist left many Republicans—pundits and senators alike—pleasantly surprised. Unfortunately, it also may have given many of them just the encouragement they needed to continue supporting the blockade of Garland’s nomination.

Desperately attempting to attract attention, Senate Democrats staged a mock hearing on Wednesday afternoon. Neither Garland nor Senate Republicans, however, were present, which sort of took the sting out of it. The event, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, was, “[set in the] wood-paneled hearing room in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, where C-Span cameras rolled as 10 Democratic senators took seats on their side of the dais. At the witness table sat four friends or colleagues of Judge Garland.” Presiding over the hearing was Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, who also serves as the ranking Democrat of the Senate Judiciary Committee. To start the hearing Leahy offered this explanation for it: “Just because Republicans refuse to do their job on Judge Garland’s nomination does not mean that we Democrats will stop doing ours.”

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The target audience of the hearing however, was not Senate Republicans, but rather, the general public. Following the hearing, Sen. Chuck Schumer explained: “We senators, who have had a chance to meet Merrick Garland, have seen: just what a fine jurist he is, what a fine judge he is, and what a fine individual he is. And the fact [is] that now the public can share some of that.” The Atlantic elaborated on the motivation behind the mock hearing: “Democrats are working to get pro-Garland messages directly to the public by any means necessary. Even if voters do not hear from Garland in the weeks and months to come, perhaps they will have heard enough to choose his Senate defenders when they hit the ballot box next fall.”

Appealing directly to the public certainly may be Garland’s best hope now, given that the Senate Judiciary Committee held another litany of non Garland hearings this week. Topics ranged from supporting youth foster care to better understanding the threats of ransomware.

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