Susan Collins of Maine became only the second Republican senator
to meet with Merrick Garland since Obama nominated the centrist
appellate judge last month to fill the court vacancy left by the
Feb. 13 death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
The hourlong meeting came as Republican senators face mounting
pressure from conservative activists to go along with Senate
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's plan to block any nominee chosen
"The meeting left me more convinced than ever that the process
should proceed. The next step, in my view, should be public hearings
before the Judiciary Committee," Collins told reporters.
About two hours later, McConnell told reporters: "It's safe to say
there will not be hearings or votes" on Garland.
McConnell and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley
have said Obama's successor, who will be elected on Nov. 8 and take
office on Jan. 20, should fill Scalia's vacancy.
The court is now split 4-4 between conservatives and liberals,
meaning Scalia's successor could influence its ideological direction
for years to come.
Collins called Garland "well-informed, thoughtful, impressive,
extraordinarily bright and with a sensitivity" toward the roles
assigned under the Constitution to the government's executive,
legislative and judicial branches.
The White House said Garland would meet next week with Republican
Senators Kelly Ayotte, Rob Portman, Lisa Murkowski and Jeff Flake
for "courtesy visits."
Garland met last week with Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois, who called
fellow Republicans "closed-minded" for refusing to consider the
Grassley has invited Garland to a breakfast meeting to explain why
he will not hold hearings, a Grassley spokeswoman said on Monday.
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Democrats kept up their attack on Republicans for blocking Garland.
Dick Durbin, the second-ranking Senate Democrat, said if McConnell
stood firm, Garland would be "the first presidential nominee to the
Supreme Court in history to be denied a hearing."
Flake said if a Democrat wins the presidential election, Garland
should be confirmed by the Senate "in a heartbeat" during a
post-election legislative session.
Some Republicans are concerned that Hillary Clinton, the
front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, would
select a more liberal nominee than Garland.
Flake's fellow Republican Judiciary Committee member Lindsey Graham
dismissed the idea of a "lame-duck" session to confirm Garland.
Graham said Garland would not be confirmed, adding: "What's the
purpose of a hearing, just to beat him up?"
(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Additional reporting by Timothy Gardner
and Susan Cornwell; Editing by Will Dunham and Peter Cooney)
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