Heard on the Hill

Flashback Friday: Garland Heads to the Senate

One year later, a different nominee is up for confirmation

Garland, right, made his first visit with senators, including Reid, left, one year ago today. Republicans never granted the Supreme Court nominee a hearing. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

On St. Patrick’s Day in 2016, Supreme Court nominee Judge Merrick G. Garland made his first visit to the Senate. But the luck of the Irish wasn’t enough to move his nomination forward. One year later, a different judge is facing a confirmation hearing.

Garland, the chief judge for the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, made his way to the Senate one year ago today, the day after President Barack Obama nominated him to fill the vacancy left by the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

Before Garland was nominated, Republicans decided not to hold a hearing or vote on Obama’s pick for the seat, arguing the American people would decide the direction of the court through the presidential election.

But Garland went on with meetings and hearing preparations anyway. He donned a green tie for his first Senate meetings with then-Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, then the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.


Garland, right, met with Leahy as well one year ago today. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Garland, right, met with Leahy as well one year ago today. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

“Happy St. Patrick’s Day!” Leahy wished reporters following their meeting.

Merrick Garland Trudges On, Awaiting Supreme Court Action ]

One year later, Leahy is no longer the ranking Democrat on the committee. He opted to become the ranking member on the powerful Appropriations Committee, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein took his top spot on Judiciary.

Feinstein and other members of the committee are now preparing for Supreme Court confirmation hearings beginning on Monday. But, instead of Garland, they’ll be questioning president Donald Trump’s nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Gorsuch’s first phone call after he was nominated in February was reportedly to Garland. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., took credit for leaving the seat open for Trump to fill, since he made the decision not to take up Obama’s nominee.

“As you know, I played arguably the single biggest role in having the vacancy there,” McConnell said in a recent interview with Politico Playbook. “I was prepared to take the heat because I knew that we would look completely foolish to allow the vacancy to be filled on the way out the door.”

McConnell has planned to have Gorsuch confirmed before the mid-April Easter recess. The confirmation hearings kick off on Monday, where senators and Gorsuch will make their opening statements. Senators will question Gorsuch on Tuesday, followed by testimony by outside experts on Wednesday.

Garland, meanwhile, has resumed his position as chief judge for the D.C. Circuit. He set a record for the Supreme Court nominee with the longest wait for a confirmation hearing as the Senate did not take up his nomination.

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