Give Judge Garland a Vote—“It Is the Right Thing to Do”

U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington D.C.Yesterday, the William J. Clinton Presidential Library released more than 1,300 pages of files on Judge Merrick Garland from the mid-1990s when he was being vetted for his nomination to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in 1995. So do these files from the Clinton Library tell us anything new?
In the 141 days since President Obama nominated Judge Garland to the Supreme Court, numerous people on both sides of the aisle and throughout the legal profession have come out in support for Garland and noted his impressive legal credentials. And while many of these files confirm that Garland had broad support in the 90s from people across the political spectrum, just as he does today, a few pieces jump out.
In particular, in a February 1996 letter, Senator Orrin Hatch (then-Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee) writes to Majority Leader Bob Dole, “I am writing to urge you to allow the nomination of Merrick Garland to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to come to the floor for a vote. I believe that we should allow nominees who are fully qualified for their positions, who understand the limited role of judges in our constitutional system of government, and whose views are within the mainstream of judicial ideology to be voted on by the Senate. It is the right thing to do.”
What changed, Senator Hatch? In this 1996 letter, you believed that nominees like Garland deserved a vote by the Senate. As recently as 2010, you said that Garland would be a “consensus nominee” and that there was “no question” he could be confirmed. But the day President Obama nominated Judge Garland to the Supreme Court, you changed your mind and decided that the Senate should not even hold a hearing on the nominee.
Well Senator Hatch, it is time to #DoYourJob, and give Judge Garland a hearing and a full Senate vote, just as you urged your colleagues to do in 1996. To use your own words, “It is the right thing to do.”