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Democrats Could Force Vote on Garland

Democrats Could Force Vote on Garland
Supreme Court Nominee Merrick Garland. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

By Thursday, 31 March 2016 09:04 AM Current | Bio | Archive

There were ominous signs Wednesday that Senate Democrats were planning to force a vote on the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.

The little-used procedure works this way: Under Senate rules, a motion could be offered by any senator to discharge Garland’s nomination from the Judiciary Committee. It would take a simple majority — all 46 Democratic senators and four Republicans, with Vice President Joe Biden casting the tie-breaking vote — to move the Senate to executive session. Eventually, it would take 60 votes in the Senate to bring the nomination to an up-or-down vote.

As three Senate Republicans declared that they planned to meet with Garland and preferred a vote on his nomination to succeed the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said that the Senate might be forced to vote on Garland if Democrats deploy the rarely-used “motion to discharge” to bring his nomination to the Senate floor.

“There’s nothing we can do about it,” Grassley told a town meeting in Iowa, “Under the rules of the United States Senate, the resolution can be offered anytime.” For its part, the White House denied even knowing about the discharge process before Grassley’s remarks.

“I’ll be honest with you, before Sen. Grassley mentioned this at a town hall meeting in a way that apparently was unplanned and not terribly thought through, I didn't realize there actually was a discharge-petition process on the Senate side,” Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters at the White House Wednesday, “Now, that may be my own bias — I briefly worked on the House side and was aware of how that process worked.

“So I can tell you that's not something that's gotten serious consideration over here primarily because there's ample time for Senate Republicans to actually follow through on Leader McConnell's promise to get the Congress moving again.

"And there's no reason that if we operate under the timeline that previous Supreme Court nominees have in the last 30 years, that Chief Judge Garland should be able to get a hearing and a fair up or down vote before the Senate goes into recess and, more importantly, before the Supreme Court begins their next term in October.”

Noting the agreements to meet with Garland by Republican Sens. Mark Kirk, Susan Collins, and Jerry Moran, I asked Earnest if the White House Office of Congressional Liaison was helping orchestrate their statements or whether they were spontaneous.

“Well, I can tell you that the White House was in touch with every office of every United States senator in advance of the president announcing Chief Judge Garland was the nominee,” Earnest told me, “The president takes quite seriously his responsibility to offer advice and consent.  

"And when we have seen public statements from individual senators indicating their willingness or even desire to have a meeting with Chief Judge Garland, then we've contacted them, and we've followed up with them to schedule those meetings.”

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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There were ominous signs Wednesday that Senate Democrats were planning to force a vote on the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.
Congress, Garland, Judiciary
Thursday, 31 March 2016 09:04 AM
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