- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Supreme Court nomination of Judge Merrick Garland received a morale boost of sorts Wednesday when former Sen. Tom Coburn, a Republican, came out in favor of the Senate holding a confirmation hearing and a vote.

“I think the Senate ought to do its duty,” Mr. Coburn told the Oklahoman during a visit to Capitol Hill. “And the committee ought to vote him up or down.”

His comments came before Judge Garland met with Oklahoma’s two current senators, Republicans James Lankford and James M. Inhofe.

The White House, still trying to find momentum for the nominee 42 days after President Obama made the choice, seized on Mr. Coburn’s comments.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Mr. Coburn “is often referred to as the conscience of the Senate.”

“He made clear in his typical, avuncular style, that the Senate should do its job, and there is no excuse for Republicans refusing to consider voting on the nomination of Chief Judge Garland,” he said. “Hopefully that counsel from the former Republican senator of Oklahoma will have an influence over the current Republican senators from Oklahoma.”

Mr. Earnest said he couldn’t rule out that someone from the White House might have lobbied Mr. Coburn, who bonded with Mr. Obama while in office.

“Obviously, Senator Coburn was a pretty conservative Republican, and his personal affection for President Obama is well-known, and certainly transcends their partisan differences,” Mr. Earnest said. “But I don’t have any reason to believe that he was communicating anything other than his own personal view with his own personal conviction about how important it is for the Senate to vote on Chief Judge Garland’s nomination because it’s their constitutional responsibility to do so.”

A liberal group tied to the White House accused Senate Republican leaders of being “afraid” to hold a confirmation hearing for Judge Garland.

In an email to supporters, Organizing for Action official Jack Shapiro said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley are “skipping out on their jobs for a reason.”

“I think they’re afraid the American people can see through their partisan political games,” Mr. Shapiro said. “They’re afraid that the American people will find out that Judge Garland is an experienced and reasonable judge who will fairly interpret the law.”

He said if GOP lawmakers have legitimate concerns about President Obama’s nominee, “they should hold a hearing and ask some questions on the people’s behalf.”

Judge Garland also met Wednesday with Republican Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota, and Sen. Bill Nelson, Florida Democrat. On Thursday he’ll meet with Democratic Sens. Gary Peters of Michigan and Ron Wyden of Oregon.

Mr. Earnest criticized Republican lawmakers for “denying the American public the opportunity to hear directly” from Judge Garland, and he singled out Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania for raising concerns about the nominee’s record.

“For Senator Toomey to criticize Chief Judge Garland and his record without giving Chief Judge Garland the opportunity to answer questions about it, that’s just unfair,” Mr. Earnest said Tuesday. “It’s even worse when you consider that it’s Senator Toomey’s job to ensure that Chief Judge Garland has an opportunity to discuss these issues in public. So it’s not just unfair, it is a classic example of Washington obstruction that, frankly, I think the American people are going to be pretty dissatisfied with.”

Mr. Toomey won the GOP nomination for another term Tuesday night in Pennsylvania and will face Democrat Katie McGinty, a former EPA official in the Clinton administration, in November.

Mr. Earnest pointed to the comments of Rep. David Jolly, a Florida Republican vying for a Senate seat in November, who broke from his party’s position Monday and said Republicans should hold a confirmation hearing and vote on Judge Garland this year.

“We’re talking about a Republican candidate that’s running in the biggest swing state in the country, and even he is making the case that Chief Judge Garland deserves a hearing and a vote,” Mr. Earnest said. “I think that’s a pretty good piece of evidence that Republicans continue to feel pressure from the public.”

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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