Not long after President Barack Obama announced that he was nominating Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court, former Senate Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) began signaling that Garland would not be a terrible choice. And, if Hillary Clinton won the White House in November, Republicans may be open to accepting him in the lame duck session over a more liberal appointee down the line.
Yet, that position undermines Republicans’ central argument so far that their opposition to Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court has nothing to do with the merits of Obama’s nominee and is instead just about one principle: the next president gets to pick the nominee.
“That’s a tough position to take. I will concede,” said Sen. Jeff Flake, (R-AZ) who has said he is among those open to confirming Garland in the lame duck. “The only position I’ve had is ‘hey, i’m concerned about the direction of the court,’ and so if we come to a point where we’ve lost the election, and we can get a centrist like Garland in there as opposed to someone like Hillary Clinton might appoint then I’d go for it.”
But other fellow Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee say that is a double standard, they wouldn’t support.
“We can’t have it both ways,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, (R-S.C.) said. “We cannot say ‘let the people speak,’ and then say ‘no, you can’t.’ If you are going to let the people speak, let ’em speak and honor their choice.”
Sen. David Perdue (R-GA), who also sits on the Judiciary Committee, agrees that Republicans could not change their minds in the lame duck session and move forward with Garland.
“I think it is the next president, and I have said that all along. It’s about the principle not the individual,” Perdue told reporters in a scrum on Wednesday.
When asked if his mind would change if Clinton was elected, Perdue didn’t budge.
“No, if you are gonna do this, it’s about the principle,” Perdue said.
Sen. Roy Blunt, (R-MO), who is on the leadership team, agreed that Republicans could not reverse course now. Blunt also added that he, like many in the GOP, will not even meet with Garland.
“I can barely schedule a call with my son’s math teacher yesterday so probably no,” Blunt said on the meeting.