Senate Democrats are pushing for a Feb. 8 confirmation hearing for Merrick GarlandMerrick Brian GarlandDemocrats weigh expanding lower courts after Trump blitz Biden begins staffing commission to study Supreme Court reform: report Over 40 lawmakers sign letter urging Merrick Garland to prioritize abolishing death penalty MORE, President Biden’s pick to be attorney general.
Garland has yet to receive a hearing weeks after his nomination, in part because of a quirk that has left Republicans retaining control of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
While Democrats have the Senate majority, Republicans still control the committees because the Senate hasn’t yet passed a power-sharing deal. Without an organizing resolution, the Senate committees are still following the organization for the 116th Congress. That leaves Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump announces new impeachment legal team after reported departures 5 lawyers leave Trump impeachment team ahead of trial: reports Biden reignites immigration fight in Congress MORE (R-S.C.) as chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinProgressives push controversial proposal on budget reconciliation Democrats weigh expanding lower courts after Trump blitz Biden reignites immigration fight in Congress MORE (D-Ill.) sent a letter to Graham on Monday asking him to schedule the hearing, arguing that there was “simply no justification” to oppose giving Garland a hearing before the Judiciary Committee on Feb. 8.
“I find it regrettable that we have been unable to reach agreement on a timeline for processing this nomination. While I remain committed to working with you and Senator Grassley, the Committee’s incoming Ranking Member, to find bipartisan consensus on timing, there is simply no justification for delaying Judge Garland’s hearing any further,” Durbin wrote in the letter.
Durbin implied in his letter that Graham is currently refusing to give Garland a hearing on Feb. 8, writing, “It is my hope … that you will reconsider your objections to proceeding with a February 8 hearing.”
Spokespeople for Graham didn’t immediately respond to a question about Durbin’s request.
If Graham doesn’t agree to a Feb. 8 hearing, Durbin warned that he was “prepared to take other steps to expedite the Senate’s consideration of Judge Garland’s nomination should his hearing not go forward on February 8.”
A spokesperson for Durbin didn’t immediately provide details on what steps Durbin would be willing to take. But Durbin defended Garland in his letter.
“He is a mainstream, consensus pick who should be confirmed swiftly both on his merits and because of the pressing need to respond to the January 6 insurrection and other national security risks,” Durbin wrote.
Democrats can confirm Garland without GOP support once his nomination is on the Senate floor. Under a rules change enacted by Senate Democrats in 2013, lower-level judicial picks and executive nominees need only a simple majority to defeat a filibuster and ultimately be confirmed.
It’s not the first time Republicans have refused to give a hearing to Garland.
Former President Obama nominated him to the Supreme Court in 2016, but Republicans refused to give his nomination a hearing or a vote because of the looming presidential election. In 2020, Republicans set a new record for how close to a presidential election a Supreme Court nominee has been confirmed when they put Justice Amy Coney BarrettAmy Coney BarrettDemocrats weigh expanding lower courts after Trump blitz South Carolina Senate votes to outlaw most abortions in state Biden begins staffing commission to study Supreme Court reform: report MORE, former President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden reverses Trump last-minute attempt to freeze .4 billion of programs Trump announces new impeachment legal team after reported departures Republicans scramble to unify heading into next election cycle MORE‘s pick to succeed Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgGoodwin Liu’s background and experience make him an ideal choice for Calif. attorney general In Biden, the media finally have a religious president to celebrate NYC street and subway signs transformed to welcome Biden, bid farewell to Trump MORE, on the bench.
Graham praised Garland earlier this year when Biden picked him to be his attorney general nominee, calling him a “sound choice.”
“If media reports are accurate, I believe Judge Garland would be a sound choice to be the next Attorney General. He is a man of great character, integrity, and tremendous competency in the law,” Graham tweeted at the time.