- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley told Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland to his face Tuesday that the Senate won’t consider his nomination, sparking a fresh round of partisan criticism and praise for the veteran lawmaker at the center of the battle.

Over breakfast with the nominee, the Iowa Republican “explained why the Senate won’t be moving forward during this hyper-partisan election year,” his office said. The statement added that Mr. Grassley “thanked Judge Garland for his service” and that their 70-minute breakfast meeting in the Senate dining room was “cordial and pleasant.”

“It was a very friendly meeting,” Mr. Grassley later told CNN. “I enjoyed talking to him, but nothing has changed.”

Mr. Grassley and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are blocking Judge Garland’s nomination, saying voters should have a role in filling the high court vacancy by electing a new president to choose a nominee. President Obama and his progressive allies are trying to ramp up pressure on Republicans to hold a confirmation vote.

The White House rounded up 15 former presidents of the American Bar Association to urge the Senate to move forward with the nomination.

“This is a dereliction by the Senate, if it’s going to engage in willful ignorance about the qualifications of a nominee to the Supreme Court of this country,” William Neukom, who led the organization from 2007 to 2008, told reporters on a conference call.

Mr. McConnell, who won’t meet with Judge Garland, said the majority of the Senate already has spoken.

“Fifty-two senators said they believe the next president ought to make this appointment, and the next Senate would decide how to dispose of that under the advise and consent,” he said.

The White House and its Democratic allies pushed the theme that courtesy meetings with the nominee behind closed doors should lead to confirmation hearings.

“These private meetings are a good thing, and a good first step, but the American people deserve to hear from Judge Garland in public hearings,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat. “What are the Republicans afraid of? Are they afraid the American people will see an eminently qualified jurist?”

The head of a conservative activist group opposing the Garland nomination praised Mr. Grassley for holding firm to his position.

“The American people are grateful that Senator Grassley is standing up to President Obama’s cynical attempt to force the Senate to confirm Merrick Garland, another liberal judge who will ensure the Left dominates the Supreme Court for a generation or more,” said Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director of the Judicial Crisis Network. “Senator Grassley understands that Merrick Garland will be the decisive fifth vote on the Court to gut the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms and the fifth vote to defer to unaccountable bureaucrats at federal agencies like the EPA. We thank Senator Grassley for standing with us.”

But Mr. Grassley got a heavy dose of criticism on his official Instagram account after posting a photo of his meeting with Judge Garland and commenting that he had “explained why the Senate won’t be moving fwd w his nomination.”

“This kind of partisan politics makes me sick,” one follower told Mr. Grassley in a response that was typical of dozens of negative postings. “Quit playing games and do your job.”

The six-term senator is up for re-election this year, and has said his campaign won’t be a “slam dunk.” He is expected to face former Iowa Lt. Gov. Patty Judge, who is running for the Democratic nomination. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada has called her “one judge that Senator Grassley can’t ignore.”

Mr. Grassley also became the target of a potty-humor ad campaign by the liberal group Agenda Project Action Fund, the same organization responsible for the 2011 media campaign that accused Republican Rep. Paul D. Ryan of pushing “granny off a cliff” with his Medicare reform plan. The new ad accuses Mr. Grassley of “stalling” on the Garland nomination and depicts him hiding from inquiring journalists in a bathroom stall while he reads an Ayn Rand novel, his pants down around his ankles.

“Republicans like Senator Grassley have again and again demonstrated just how highly they view the American public,” said Agenda Project Action Fund President Erik Altieri. “Stop defecating on the responsibilities of your office, senator, it is time to start doing the people’s business instead of your own.”

Judge Garland’s meeting Tuesday with Mr. Grassley was a higher-stakes sequel to their encounter of 20 years ago, when the Iowa Republican fought against Judge Garland’s nomination for a seat on a key federal appellate court.

Mr. Grassley led the battle in 1995 and 1996 against President Bill Clinton’s nomination of Judge Garland to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, in a dispute over the number of judges on a court viewed as a steppingstone to the Supreme Court. Then, as now, Mr. Grassley said he had no beef with Judge Garland’s qualifications.

The Senate finally confirmed Judge Garland for the appeals court in 1997, after Mr. Clinton won re-election and resubmitted the nomination.

Judge Garland also met Tuesday with Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. At least 17 GOP senators have agreed to meet with the nominee, although only two have called for the Senate to hold confirmation hearings.

The White House released a letter Tuesday from the former presidents of the ABA calling on Senate leaders to hold a vote on the Garland nomination. They emphasized “the need for the judicial system to function independently of partisan influences” and said Judge Garland has “sterling” credentials.

“A vacancy on the highest court in the land can result in split 4—4 decisions, which can leave inconsistencies among lower courts unresolved and different rulings on federal law throughout the country unsettled,” they wrote. “Such uncertainty, confusion, and ambiguity would be detrimental to the rule of law.”

⦁ Tom Howell Jr. contributed to this report.

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