With the Republican Congress refusing to hold hearings with Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama’s choice to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) met with the nominee on his own on Wednesday.
“I want to thank Judge Garland for his service. We had a very cordial meeting, and I enjoyed the opportunity to meet him,” Portman said. “As I have said previously, however, I believe the American people should have a voice in this debate. This is a lifetime appointment that could reshape the Supreme Court for generations, and I believe the best thing for the country is to trust the American people to weigh in.”
In an op-ed Portman referred to Scalia as a respected jurist and the acknowledged intellectual leader of the four conservative justices on a balanced Supreme Court, with four conservative and four liberal justices and a swing vote that has often determined the outcome. Portman said that balance is now challenged at a time when the Supreme Court is increasingly asked to decide important matters that affect everyone, including health care, immigration, energy and environmental policies, First Amendment rights to free speech and freedom of religion, Second Amendment rights, and fundamental constitutional questions about the role of the legislative branch as the executive branch acquires increasing power.
“Instead of having a nomination fight in this partisan election-year environment, I believe awaiting the result of the election will give the nominee more legitimacy and better preserve the Court’s credibility as an institution,” Portman said. “This is the same position that Vice President Biden and Senators Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer have outlined in the past. After the election, I look forward to considering the nominee of our new president. Whether the American people elect a Republican or Democrat, I will judge his or her nominee on the merits, as I always have.”
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