Written by Naeem Crawford-Muhammad, Editor-in-Chief
Today, President Barack Obama nominated fellow Chicagoan Merrick Garland, the chief judge for the Washington, D.C. appeals court (appointed by President Bill Clinton), for the post of associate justice of the Supreme Court. If confirmed by the United States Senate to fill the vacancy left by the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia, Mr. Garland would become the 113th justice to serve on the nation’s highest court.
Mr. Garland is a graduate of both Harvard College and Harvard Law School, and once clerked for Justice William Brennan. While not a household name to most Americans, Mr. Garland is described by the New York Times as a, “well-known moderate,” with deep experience as a legal practitioner in both the public and private sectors. He rose to prominence during the mid-1990s when he supervised the Justice Department’s prosecution of the perpetrators of the Oklahoma City Bombing. He also had a lead role in the investigation of the Unabomber.
According to the Washington Post, seven sitting Republican senators voted to confirm Mr. Garland to his current post on the D.C. Court of Appeals. They include: Dan Coats (Ind.), Thad Cochran (Miss.), Susan Collins (Maine), Orrin Hatch (Utah), James M. Inhofe (Okla.), John McCain (Ariz.), and Pat Roberts (Kan.).
However, speaking from the Senate floor shortly after Mr. Obama’s speech, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed to block any nominee from Mr. Obama, including Mr. Garland, on the basis of “principle, not a person.”
Invoking what he termed, the “Biden Rule,” Mr. McConnell said the costs to confirm any nominee during an election year would be “too great” to the institution [of the U.S. Senate] and to the American people. The so-called Biden Rule is named after then-Senate Judiciary Chairman (and now U.S. Vice President) Joseph Biden, who argued for delaying Supreme Court nominees from then-President George H.W. Bush in 1992, an election year.
Mr. Biden, for his part, has said that his 1992 Senate speech was mischaracterized, and that he later announced he would support a nominee from the president, so long as the president consulted with the Senate and chose a moderate.
To help interested parties follow the nomination process, the White House has released a new Twitter handle: @SCOTUSnom. It had more than 21,000 followers within an hour of Mr. Obama’s announcement.