GOP leaders ignore Trump-inspired calls to confirm Garland now

Story highlights

  • "Garland is not a great choice but he's not a terrible one, either," wrote Leon Wolf on RedState
  • But top Senate Republicans say they will hold firm to their decision not to consider Garland

Washington (CNN)Senate Republican leaders have no plans to change course on the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court despite calls to do so from a handful of influential conservative activists who don't believe Donald Trump can win the White House.

Confirming Garland now, these conservatives argue, would remove the risk that Hillary Clinton would name a more liberal justice to the court next year.
    "Garland is not a great choice but he's not a terrible one, either," wrote Leon Wolf on RedState, a conservative website. "So the choices, essentially, are to confirm Garland and have another bite at the apple in a decade, or watch as President Clinton nominates someone who is radically more leftist and 10-15 years younger and we are in no position to stop it."
    Ben Howe, another RedState commentator, agreed in acting on Garland's nomination, saying in a tweet, "I strongly believe the Senate should move forward on Garland at this point." Howe has called the real estate mogul a "maniac."
    Democrats seized on Trump's ascension to becoming the Republicans' presumptive nominee and tied it to the fight over confirming Garland.
    Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid blasted Senate Republicans for blocking the nomination with the hopes that Trump -- who Reid described as "anti-women, anti-Hispanic, anti-Muslim" -- will win and pick someone more to their liking.
    "The Republican Party is Trump's party. No better example of that than blocking the Supreme Court nominee right in lockstep with Trump," the Nevada Democrat told reporters on a conference call Thursday in his first public comments since Trump became the presumptive nominee. "It's a sad day for Republicans when they decide to bow down to Donald Trump and say they want him to shape the Supreme Court for a generation."
    But top Senate Republicans say they will hold firm to their decision not to consider Garland and wait for the next president to make the pick. They argue that despite a massive political and public relations push by the White House and Democrats, individual Senate Republicans -- even those up for tough re-election fights in swing states -- have not wavered in their views. Many of those GOP senators have faced vocal protests at their state offices and a barrage of ads pressuring them to "do your jobs," the Democratic mantra on the issue.
    "Republicans continue to believe that the American people should have a voice in this decision and the next president should make the nomination," said Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. "Despite the White House coordinating with liberal groups and millions of dollars in special-interest ads, no Republican has moved from their principled position."
    Reid defended the costly campaign to pressure Republicans even though they are standing firm. Reid pointed to polls showing approval ratings dropping for key senators up for re-election and predicted eventually they would cave and call for confirmation hearings and a vote on Garland this year.
    Reid also said the rise of Trump has broadened the number of Republican seats he thinks are up for grabs, although he stopped short of predicting a Democratic takeover of the Senate.
    Arizona Sen. John McCain, who is running for re-election this year, told reporters in Phoenix Thursday that he would not change his position on Garland because Trump is the nominee. And in a sign of how comfortable top Senate Republicans are about blocking Garland, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who has led the GOP fight against confirming the judge, praised Trump's thinking on Supreme Court nominees and said he expects the billionaire businessman to nominate the "right kind of people to the court."
    The Des Moines Register on Wednesday quoted Grassley pointing out that Trump has spoken about Judge William Pryor of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, who was nominated by President George W. Bush, as the type of judge he would nominate to the high court.
    "Based upon the type of people he'd be looking for, I think I would expect the right type of people to be nominated by him to the Supreme Court," Grassley said, according to the paper.