Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) told Newsmax on Friday that President Obama wouldn’t nominate a “moderate” like Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. On Wednesday, the Utah senator was proven wrong.
“The President told me several times he’s going to name a moderate, but I don’t believe him,” Hatch told the conservative news site on Friday.
“[Obama] could easily name Merrick Garland, who is a fine man,” he continued. “He probably won’t do that because this appointment is about the election. So I’m pretty sure he’ll name someone the [liberal Democratic base] wants.”
The President nominated Garland, the chief judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, to the nation’s highest court in a formal announcement from the White House Rose Garden Wednesday morning.
Hatch has offered up high praise for Garland before, telling Reuters in 2010 that he would personally help the D.C. judge win Senate confirmation if Obama nominated him to replace outgoing Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.
Hatch told Reuters at the time that Garland would be “a consensus nominee,” and that there was “no question” he would earn bipartisan Senate support.
Back in 1997, when Garland was being considered for his U.S. Court of Appeals position, Hatch actively encouraged his confirmation.
“I know him personally,” Hatch said of Garland. “I know of his integrity. I know of his legal ability. I know of his honesty. I know of his acumen. And he belongs on the court. And I believe he is not only a fine nominee, but as good as Republicans can expect from this administration. In fact, I would place him at the top of the list.”
In a press scrum with reporters after Obama’s announcement on Wednesday, Hatch signaled that he would be open to moving Garland’s nomination during the lame duck session after the November election.
“He is a good man, but he shouldn’t be brought up tin this toxic environment,” Hatch told reporters on the hill. “I am tired of the Supreme Court being used as a battering ball back and forth on both sides. That is why I’d put it off till next year.”