It was Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s turn Wednesday to meet the Obama administration’s wandering Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland. He called the 63-year-old chief judge of the federal appeals court in Washington “supremely the right person at the right time’’ for the vacancy opened up by the sudden death in February of the high court’s leading conservative, Justice Antonin Scalia.
Whether the full Senate will ever consider Garland’s nomination remains very much in doubt as Republican senators continue to rally around Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s pledge to hold off confirmation until a new president is in office after this year’s election.
Blumenthal and Garland, who have known each other 30 years or more, met behind closed doors for over half an hour at Blumenthal’s senate office. Some of it was simply talk about families, children and mutual friends, Blumenthal said in an interview afterward.
But some of it was more substantive.
“I told him I am very, very hopeful he will be confirmed,’’ said Blumenthal, who is on the Senate Judiciary Committee that under normal circumstances would hold confirmation hearings. “It’s a question of time.’’
Although a handful of Republicans have either met with Garland or said they were open to doing so, most have either come out against the nomination or have stuck to McConnell’s pledge to leave it to the next president.
“It will take more public pressure and outrage and outcry to really break Republican intransigence,’’ Blumenthal said.
The GOP strategy could backfire if public resentment over stonewalling Garland filters into the competitive re-election bids of senators like Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio. A string of losses this November could put control of the Senate back in Democratic hands.
“Anything is possible in this confirmation process, but one point is certain: Merrick Garland is an eminently qualified nominee and he is really an appointee for all political seasons,’’ said Blumenthal.
If Republicans sense their presidential nominee is destined to lose in November, might Republican senators sing a different tune on confirming Garland?
“He could easily be the most attractive alt for Republicans who see defeat on the horizon,’’ said Blumenthal. “Then they could face a potential nominee more to their disliking. I wouldn’t rule out that scenario.’’