Merrick Garland marks 50th Senate visit as Trump steals SCOTUS spotlight

WASHINGTON (MEDIA GENERAL) – Merrick Garland trudged up Capitol Hill again Thursday to greet senators and promote his stalled Supreme Court nomination.

The dutiful nominee’s affability never faltered, despite knowing that media would largely ignore his milestone to, instead, explore the colorful tweets of Donald Trump’s 11 proposed nominees.

Thursday marked Garland’s 50th courtesy call to one of the 100 senators who would vote on his SCOTUS appointment under normal circumstances.

Of course, 2016 has been anything but normal and the powerful federal judge knows full well that his nomination faces roughly the same future as a fly in a honey jar.

Garland grinds away

Garland, chief judge of the powerful D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, has gained a reputation for punctuality on the Hill, showing up five minutes early to the office of Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., on Thursday.

A last-minute vote kept Merkley tied up across the street for 15 extra minutes, so Garland chatted away with the senator’s staff and got the grand tour of Oregon-based artwork covering the office walls.

Unbothered, Garland easily made small talk about fishing trips and the beauty of Oregonian wildlife.

As Merkley finally swept through the door, he made apologies to a still-smiling Garland, not something you’d see with every harried SCOTUS nominee.

The two shook hands and smiled for cameras, then got down to the serious business of vetting a possible Supreme Court associate justice.

It must have gone well, because the men chatted for nearly an hour.

After the huddle, Merkley talked to reporters as Garland, surrounded by a bubble of security, headed a few steps down the hallway to meet with Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., for the 10 minutes that remained before another roll call vote.

Trump towers

Democrats are incensed that Garland finds himself in a cul-de-sac of Senate inaction.

“This is what should be happening all over Capitol Hill,” declared Sen. Merkley after his sitdown. “It is absolutely unacceptable that my Republican colleagues have decided to abdicate under the Constitution that call upon them to simply do their job.”

Merkley’s target is crystal clear: GOP senators who prefer a Trump nominee over a third Obama appointee.

The presumptive GOP nominee is an unqualified, “self-promoting charlatan” in Merkley’s estimation. But even with his disdain for Trump, the Democratic senator says he would support hearings and votes to determine if his nominee “was of fit character,” not torpedo the process before it even began.

If Republicans get their way, Merkley and other Democrats would be considering a President Trump nominee in January.

Until then, the White House says it will stand by Garland and expects the Senate to carry out its duty to give him a full and fair hearing.

Garland has only two stops left on his courtesy call list: Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.

You can bet he’ll be on time, and unfailingly pleasant, when the date arrives.