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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control

Garland qualified for Supreme Court, Murray says after meeting

Pressure from voters back home might erase the barrier Republican leaders have placed on hearings for Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, Washington’s senior senator said Wednesday. 

But President Barack Obama is unlikely to test the constitutionality of Senate inaction by appointing him if there are no hearings, Democrat Patty Murray said.

Murray met with Garland Wednesday afternoon and called him a “very smart pragmatist” whom she considers absolutely qualified for a seat on the nation’s highest court. 

“I was especially interested in his thinking about the right to privacy and how it relates to women’s reproductive rights,” she said. They also discussed campaign finance reform and cases involving workers rights to organize.

A four-term incumbent seeking re-election this year, Murray said this was the first time she’d met Garland, although she had previously voted to confirm him for his current seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals.

“My constituents in Washington have a right to hear these views as well,” she said. The only way that will happen is if the Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on his nomination, she added.

More Senate Republicans have agreed to meet with Garland, Murray said. That coupled with pressure from people in their home states might prompt GOP leaders to reverse their stance that no president should be allowed to appoint a justice to a lifetime position on the Supreme Court in his or her last year in office. 

“They stall this at their own peril,” Murray said. “They can vote no (on confirmation) if they want.” 

Obama nominated Garland Some legal scholars have suggested that Obama could appoint Garland to the court if the Senate doesn’t have hearings. The Constitution says the president nominates justices “and with and by the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint” them. Under that theory, if the Senate doesn’t hold hearings, at some point it essentially waives its advice and consent function, and Obama would be free to appoint him. It would almost certainly be challenged in court.

A column suggesting that scenario appeared recently in the Washington Post, and Murray said someone had mentioned it to her recently.

“I can’t imagine that happening,” she said.

Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

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