Merrick Garland, a federal judge described in media reports as a “moderate” with little judicial record on abortion or same-sex marriage, is President Obama’s choice to fill a Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
Announcing his pick from the White House Rose Garden today (March 16), Obama praised Garland’s ability to build consensus among “colleagues with wide-ranging judicial philosophies” and told Senate Republicans failing to consider the nomination would be “an abdication of the Senate’s constitutional duty.”
But in a speech on the Senate floor, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., reiterated his pledge not to take up or confirm the nomination.
“The American people may well elect a president who decides to nominate Judge Garland for Senate consideration,” McConnell said. “The next president may also nominate someone very different. Either way, our view is this: Give the people a voice in the filling of this vacancy.”
Garland was appointed to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals by President Bill Clinton and, following a lengthy confirmation battle, has served there since 1997, being elevated to chief justice in 2013. Prior to that, he served as a federal prosecutor, an attorney in private practice and a clerk to Supreme Court Justice William Brennan. As a prosecutor, he oversaw the government’s investigation of the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995.
Statements from conservative evangelical leaders tended to state principled opposition to confirming any justice during a presidential election year rather than opposition to particular rulings or positions espoused by Garland.
Jerry Johnson, president of the National Religious Broadcasters, said “the American people should at least have a chance to vote in November before this president gets to place a third and likely generational altering pick on the Court.” Similarly, Jay Sekulow, chief counsel at the American Center for Law and Justice, said blocking confirmation until after the presidential election “is the correct course of action” for the Senate to pursue “based soundly on constitutional principles, historic precedent and prudence.”
Russell Moore, president of Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told Baptist Press in written comments, “President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland comes at a very tumultuous time in our national politics. We shouldn’t forget that Judge Garland is seeking to fill the vacancy left by one of the Court’s most brilliant jurists and defenders of life and religious liberty in Antonin Scalia.
“Regardless of the outcome of the president’s nomination, my hope is that Justice Scalia’s legacy of constitutionalism and the defense of unborn people would live on through whoever is ultimately confirmed to judge in his place,” Moore said.
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SOURCE: Baptist Press