Senate Democratic Leaders Urge Colleagues to Sign New Letter Calling on Sens. McConnell and Grassley to Hold Garland Hearings

New Letter Will Be Kept Open For All U.S. Senators to Sign, Giving Senate Republicans, in Particular, the Opportunity To Show Real Leadership In Their Party; Letter Urges Senators McConnell And Grassley To Listen To American People & Do Their Job By Giving Garland Fair Confirmation Process

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Senate Democratic Leaders, led by Senators Harry Reid, Dick Durbin, Charles E. Schumer, Patty Murray, Debbie Stabenow and Bob Casey urged the entire United States Senate to sign a new letter, organized by the Democratic Leadership and Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy, urging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Judiciary Committee Chair Charles Grassley to give President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, a fair confirmation process. By opening up the letter for signature to the full United States Senate, Republicans are being given the opportunity to show real leadership in their party and do more than the bare minimum of holding closed-press meetings with Judge Garland. Senate Democratic leaders announced the new letter in the U.S. Capitol Building today and also argued that the American people deserve to hear from Judge Garland themselves in the form of public hearings, especially since there are new reports that Republicans are asking substantive questions in their private meetings.

“The Senate has held public confirmation hearings on Supreme Court nominees for a hundred years. If Republicans refuse to uphold that standard now, they will be setting a new low in transparent government,” said Senator Reid. “Out-of-sight meetings where Republican Senators can slip out the back door to avoid reporters are not transparent and they’re not nearly enough. Today, we’re giving all members of the Senate a chance to do the right thing and tell Mitch McConnell and Chuck Grassley to do their job and give Judge Garland the fair confirmation process any nominee deserves.”

“More and more Republican and Democratic senators have had private meetings to ask questions of Judge Garland, but the American people deserve to hear from the President’s nominee too. That means a public hearing for all to see,” said Senator Durbin. “The Constitution is clear on Supreme Court vacancies. The American people agree, and Senate Democrats are ready to do our job and give the President’s nominee full and fair public consideration.”

“The American people should have the same opportunity to hear from Judge Garland that Republicans have had behind closed doors,” said Senator Schumer. “Not every senator has to agree on a particular nominee, but we should all be able to agree to do our jobs as Senators. I hope that our Republican colleagues will join us in supporting the next step in this process, and give the American people the chance to hear from the Judge himself.”

“I had the opportunity to meet with Judge Garland and discuss his background, experiences, and judicial philosophy—but my constituents should be able to hear directly from him as well,” said Senator Murray. “Republican leaders need to listen to the people they represent and allow Judge Garland to have a hearing in the Judiciary Committee, answer questions under oath, and make his case. If Republicans don’t like what Judge Garland has to say, they are welcome to vote no—but there is no good reason for them to refuse to do their jobs and refuse to give him a hearing.”

“Senate Republicans have an opportunity to do the right thing by calling for public hearings and a vote on Chief Judge Garland’s nomination,” said Senator Stabenow. “No nominee has ever been treated this way. The American people have spoken loudly and clearly. It’s time for Republicans to do their job.”

“It’s time for Senate Republicans to end these outrageous games and do their jobs,” Senator Casey said. “Judge Garland deserves a fair hearing and a timely vote- anything less is an abrogation of our basic duties.”

The full text of the new letter can be found below:

The Honorable Mitch McConnell                               The Honorable Charles E. Grassley
317 Russell Senate Office Building                           224 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510                                              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.