Ron Klain: Senate GOP Supreme Court tactics 'unprecedented'

Ron Klain in 2014 in in Washington, DC.

Story highlights

  • Ron Klain, a former vice-presidential chief of staff, blasted Senate Republicans for Supreme Court tactics
  • Klain said Obama nominee Merrick Garland is overwhelmingly qualified

The "Axe Files" is a podcast featuring David Axelrod produced by the University of Chicago Institute of Politics and CNN.

(CNN)The refusal of Senate Republicans to consider President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland until after the 2016 election is an "unprecedented" move, says former Obama administration official Ron Klain.

"He is an outstanding legal mind. He is an incredibly objective and fair-minded person," Klain told David Axelrod on "The Axe Files," a podcast produced by CNN and the University of Chicago Institute of Politics. "And I think in any kind of normal political universe, he's the kind of person that would be confirmed to the Supreme Court unanimously."
But now, according to Klain, who served as chief of staff to Vice Presidents Joe Biden and Al Gore and Attorney General Janet Reno, the Supreme Court confirmation process has become "very highly politicized, very highly partisanized, and very polarized" to the point where presidential nominees are not even given a fair shot at confirmation.
    "The idea that they wouldn't even have a chance to present themselves to the American people, that's obviously unprecedented and unfortunate," said Klain, who worked for then-Sen. Biden on the Senate Judiciary Committee in the 1980s.
    Even before Garland's nomination by Obama last week, Senate Republicans, led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, had vowed not to grant any nominee a hearing, believing that the decision on a replacement for the late Justice Antonin Scalia should be up to the next president. However, Klain, noting that in "125 years, every nominee has gotten a hearing," said he thinks the GOP will ultimately face strong public pressure to change their stance.
    "This is a fair country. And I think that the idea that someone doesn't even get a hearing, doesn't even get a chance to present their case, doesn't even get a chance to be heard, I think, is going to rub a lot of people the wrong way," he said.
    "I guess they're so afraid of being persuaded by a great nominee that they don't even want to listen. They're trying to plug their ears. [But] I think it's going to be very hard for them to sustain their position."
    To hear the whole interview with Klain, which also touched on his work overseeing the Obama Administration's economic stimulus bill and coordinating its response to the Ebola outbreak, as well as his assessment of the ongoing Democratic primary, click on To get "The Axe Files" podcast every week, subscribe at