Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his chief deputy, John Cornyn, both insisted this week that GOP leaders won't take up President Barack Obama's choice of Garland in an end-of-year session, no matter what happens in the November elections.
"We've already made it very clear that a nomination for the Supreme Court by this president will not be filled this year," McConnell said when asked if he'd take up Garland in a lame-duck session of Congress if Clinton wins.
"No," Cornyn told CNN when asked if there was any possibility the GOP would consider Garland in the lame-duck session.
The decision is a major gamble for GOP leaders, given that a potential Clinton White House could try to push forward a younger and more progressive nominee than the 63-year-old Garland. Some Republicans have urged party leaders to confirm Garland in the post-election session if Clinton wins the White House, arguing that Obama's nominee would be ideologically more suitable than one by a new Democratic president and potentially with a Democratic Senate majority.
Yet moving on Garland in the lame-duck session would be seen as a major capitulation by McConnell, who has refused to take any steps on the nominee. Garland has languished for six months with no action in the Senate. Plus, Republicans believe that even if Clinton wins the White House and Democrats take back the Senate, the chamber will be narrowly divided, forcing Clinton to consider a more moderate pick who stands a greater likelihood of winning confirmation.
Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, the longest-serving Senate Republican, said "I'm still thinking it through" when asked if he'd be open to confirming Garland in a lame-duck session if Clinton wins.
"I don't rule anything out," Hatch, a senior member on the Judiciary Committee, told CNN. "I like Merrick personally. I disagree with a lot of his decisions in the last 20 years. But we'll see."
Speaking at a town hall meeting in Iowa last month, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley suggested that moving on Garland in the lame-duck session was a possibility if "a majority of the Senate changed their mind" and wanted action after the elections. He later downplayed the idea.