US President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland for the US Supreme Court Wednesday, a centrist judge meant to win over recalcitrant Senate Republicans.
But Republican leaders wasted no time in spurning the Democratic president’s choice, Reuters reports.
A bruising political fight is brewing over the nomination, which also promises to figure in the already contentious campaign for the Nov. 8 US presidential election.
The Republican-led Senate’s leaders have vowed not to hold confirmation hearings or an up-or-down vote on any Obama nominee.
Garland, 63, was picked to replace long-serving conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who died Feb. 13.
A Chicagoan like Obama, he serves as chief judge of the influential US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and is a former prosecutor who in the past has won praise from both Republicans and Democrats.
The administration is dispatching Garland to Capitol Hill on Thursday to huddle with Senator Patrick Leahy, the senior Judiciary Committee Democrat, and then with Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid.
Such meetings are aimed at shoring up Senate support for the nominee and generating media coverage.
The lifetime appointment to the high court requires Senate confirmation.
Republicans, hoping a candidate from their party wins the presidential election, are demanding that Obama leave the seat vacant and let his successor, to be sworn in next January, make the selection.
Obama said Republican senators should give Garland a fair hearing.
He said that failing to do so “will not only be an abdication of the Senate’s constitutional duty, it will indicate a process for nominating and confirming judges that is beyond repair”.
Obama said that would also undermine the reputation of the Supreme Court and faith in the American justice system.
Scalia’s death left the nine-member Supreme Court evenly split with four liberals and four conservative justices. Obama’s nominee could tilt the court to the left for the first time in decades, which could affect rulings on contentious issues including abortion, gun rights, the death penalty and political spending.
Obama said the Supreme Court was supposed to be above politics and it should remain so.
He said that with politics in the United States so polarized, “this is precisely the time when we should play it straight, and treat the process of appointing a Supreme Court justice with the seriousness and care it deserves.”
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell swiftly reiterated that the Senate will not consider the nomination by the president.
John Cornyn of Texas, the second-ranking Senate Republican, added, “This person will not be confirmed, so there’s no reason going through some motions and pretending like it will happen, because it’s not going to happen.”
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