Wyden, Merkley call on GOP senators to sign letter urging High Court nominee hearing, vote

Oregon’s two Democratic U.S. senators, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, Thursday joined with other Democratic senators calling on Senate Republicans to sign a letter asking that a hearing be held on the president’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court.

All the Democrats in the Senate have agreed to sign the letter, according to a joint news release from Wyden and Merkley.

The open letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, and Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, urges the two to hold a hearing on appeals court judge Merrick Garland’s nomination by April 27. It requests a committee vote by May 12, and a full Senate vote by Memorial Day.

After Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died in February, President Barack Obama nominated Garland to replace him nearly a month ago, but McConnell has said hearings should not be held until after the next president of the United States is sworn into office next year.

“No nominee has ever been treated this way,” the letter says, adding that since 1916 “the Senate has never denied a Supreme Court nominee a hearing and a vote.”

At least two Republican senators have said hearings should be held, including Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who met with Garland earlier this month.

The letter says a large majority of Americans want the Senate to hold a public hearing on Garland’s nomination.

Meanwhile, senators from both parties met with Garland Thursday. He held meetings with Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio.

Read the letter:

The Honorable Mitch McConnell, 317 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Charles E. Grassley, 224 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510

Dear Majority Leader McConnell and Chairman Grassley:

This week marks one month since Chief Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court. We stand ready to fulfill our sworn oaths to uphold the Constitution by providing advice and consent on Chief Judge Garland’s nomination. That is what an overwhelming majority of Americans are demanding we do. A recent poll shows that nearly 70 percent of Americans – including a majority of Republicans – say that Senators should do their jobs and proceed with a hearing for Chief Judge Garland. We urge you to listen to the American people and allow all Senators to do our jobs by giving Chief Judge Garland a hearing and a vote.

No nominee has ever been treated this way. Since public confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominees began in the Judiciary Committee in 1916, the Senate has never denied a Supreme Court nominee a hearing and a vote. We urge you to consider Chief Judge Garland’s nomination consistent with the average confirmation schedule for Supreme Court nominees since 1975 based on data from the Congressional Research Service. Following this precedent, the Judiciary Committee should commence hearings on Chief Judge Garland’s nomination by April 27 and hold a Committee vote by May 12. The full Senate should vote on his nomination by Memorial Day.

In the month that Chief Judge Garland’s nomination has been pending, the Supreme Court has already deadlocked twice and was not able to carry out its constitutional role as the final arbiter of our Nation’s laws. Where you live will impact what your rights are. That is unacceptable and harms our constitutional democracy. Your refusal to consider Chief Judge Garland’s nomination means the Supreme Court will be weakened and unable to fulfill its constitutional role for two terms.

We are encouraged that members of both parties have begun to meet with Chief Judge Garland as the first step to his confirmation process in the Senate. Meeting with Chief Judge Garland is also a basic courtesy to this fair-minded, accomplished nominee, who has spent almost three decades in public service and has more federal judicial experience than any Supreme Court nominee in history. He has committed much of his life to public service – from his days at the Justice Department working as a prosecutor on the ground in the aftermath of the devastating Oklahoma City bombing to his nearly two decades as a Federal appellate judge. Every Senator should agree to shake his hand and sit down to meet with him.

Meeting with Chief Judge Garland, however, is only the first step. A full and fair examination of his record at a public hearing in the Judiciary Committee is needed before the full Senate votes on his nomination. It is no surprise that the overwhelming majority of Americans want Chief Judge Garland to have a public hearing. A public hearing would allow Americans to engage in the process of considering the nomination and hearing directly from Chief Judge Garland on his record and his responses on important legal questions.

One of the Senate’s most important and solemn responsibilities to is to provide advice and consent on Supreme Court nominees. We have heard the American people. We urge you to listen to them and allow Senators to do their jobs by considering Chief Judge Garland’s nomination without further delay.