04.07.16

Merrick Garland Waits As Senate Obstructionists Outsource Their Work To Moneyed Interest Groups

By Patrick Leahy

Senate Republicans are creating a toxic dynamic that ensures outside interest groups have the floor to themselves.

Rather than rolling up their sleeves and considering Chief Judge Merrick Garland’s record for themselves, Republicans have outsourced their job to moneyed interest groups whose only goal is to smear the nominee’s admirable record of public service. These outside groups are not accountable to the American people. Nor do they have the American people’s interest in mind. They are private, powerful groups whose only goal is to advance their own special interests at any cost.

While dark money fuels an effort to tarnish Judge Garland’s sterling career, Republicans are blocking him from having a public confirmation hearing where he would have the opportunity to defend his record against these attacks. They claim their refusal to do their jobs will somehow spare him from a toxic confirmation process, which one Republican senator warned would leave the nominee resemble a “piñata.” But Senate Republicans are the very ones creating the toxic dynamic that is ensuring outside interest groups have the floor all to themselves.

The result is a one-two punch aimed at this highly qualified nominee. First, Senate Republicans have encouraged the special interest groups to distort and malign his record. There have been private meetings with Republican Senate leaders and the Judicial Crisis Network, the NRA and other special interest groups that are spending millions in dark money to run attack ads around the country against Judge Garland.

But at the same time, Republican Senators want to deny him a chance to defend himself at a public hearing. That is wrong, it is harmful, and it is unfair.

Before even meeting the nominee, some Republican Senators claim they have reviewed his record and found him to be an unacceptable nominee. But that is not possible, since Republicans stubbornly refuse to schedule a hearing and continue to deny him an opportunity to speak for himself and his record. They cannot have it both ways. Republicans have the power to change course and treat this Supreme Court nominee fairly by doing their jobs as senators. 

By refusing to allow any process for Judge Garland’s nomination, Senate Republicans are not just denying this nominee a fair hearing; they are denying the American people the opportunity to engage in the important Senate process for considering nominees to the highest court in the land. The ability of all Americans – not just the wealthy and politically connected – to express their views and have their voices heard in our democracy is vital to meaningful self-government. In poll after poll, Americans overwhelmingly support a public hearing for the nominee.  

Americans should not be surprised that the same Republican senators who refuse to meet with Judge Garland and who seek to end our tradition of an open confirmation process are the ones who for years blocked efforts to bring more transparency into our campaign finance system, which today enables groups like the Judicial Crisis Network to flood the airwaves and drown out the voices of hardworking Americans.

It is also no coincidence that the same Republican obstruction that has led to the proliferation of these single issue groups now threatens this president’s nominee. From President Obama’s first day in office, these special interests have sought to undermine his legitimacy at every turn. Those same efforts are now being directed at Judge Garland, a highly regarded appellate jurist who has been praised by Republicans for his fair-minded approach and his commitment to the rule of law.

Rather than following the demands of the moneyed interests, Republicans should listen to the American people who want to see real, practical leadership in Washington. Americans across the nation go to work every day and do not have the luxury of picking and choosing when they want to do their jobs. Nor should the Senate have that luxury. Americans want Republicans to do their jobs and consider for themselves the merits of Judge Garland’s record through public hearings and a vote.


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[Patrick Leahy, Vermont’s senior U.S. senator, is the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.]

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