- Associated Press - Thursday, April 14, 2016

WASHINGTON (AP) - Senate Democrats called on Republicans to vote on Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court by Memorial Day, as GOP lawmakers showed no sign of relenting despite the latest round of courtesy calls.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., maintains that the president chosen by voters in November should fill the vacancy on the high court, and there will be no confirmation hearings or a vote. But Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and his Democratic colleagues are hoping that election-year pressure will eventually wear them down.

“We feel the public is on our side, and this is to their detriment,” Reid told reporters Thursday at a news conference in which Democrats pressed for consideration of Garland’s nomination.

One Republican in a tough re-election race, Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, met with Garland Thursday morning and told the judge that he agreed with McConnell on delaying the nomination until after the next president takes office.

“This will be obviously a very consequential seat that will determine the direction of the court for some time,” Portman said.

McConnell announced within hours of the death of Justice Antonin Scalia on Feb. 13 that there would be no consideration of Obama’s nominee. In March, Obama chose Garland, now chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

An Associated Press-GfK poll released Wednesday showed that while 2 in 3 Americans back Democrats’ demands that the Republican-run Senate hold hearings and a vote, just 1 in 5 say they have been following the partisan battle closely.

Garland also met with Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona. In a statement after the meeting, Flake said Garland is justified in waiting until after the election because the nomination could shift the balance of the court.

Still, he said Garland is “obviously a man of accomplishment and keen intellect. He is also kind and engaging.”

With Garland and Flake’s meetings, nine Republicans have now met with Garland. Only two - Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Mark Kirk of Illinois - have called for hearings and a vote.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, met with Garland earlier this week but reiterated that he won’t advance the nomination.


Follow Mary Clare Jalonick on Twitter at https://twitter.com/mcjalonick

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