- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland met Tuesday with more senators on Capitol Hill, including the Republican who is most receptive to his nomination, while GOP leaders boasted that the liberal media pressure campaign for President Obama’s nominee is failing.

Judge Garland met with Sen. Susan M. Collins of Maine, a moderate Republican who told reporters that he had given her “very thorough, impressive” answers in private.

“The meeting left me more convinced than ever that the process should proceed,” she told reporters. “The next step, in my view, should be public hearings before the Judiciary Committee so that the issues that we explored in my office can be publicly aired and so that senators can have a better opportunity to flesh out all of the issues that we discussed.”

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said the unity of his party colleagues isn’t cracking under progressives’ pressure and that the Senate won’t hold a confirmation hearing during this presidential election year.

Mr. McConnell praised Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, for not backing down after progressives targeted him at town hall meetings over the two-week Easter recess.

“The left is all in a stew,” Mr. McConnell said on the Hugh Hewitt radio show. “They’re out there running ads and have paid people to show up at Chairman Grassley’s town hall meetings to try to harass him. But he’s been the Rock of Gibraltar.”

Asked whether cracks were emerging in the Republican opposition, Mr. McConnell said, “I don’t see any. We had a couple of our members in blue states that have a contrary view, but there’s … 52 others who are very comfortable with no hearings or no votes.”

At least 17 Republican senators, including Mr. Grassley, have agreed to meet with Judge Garland. But only two — Ms. Collins and Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois — are advocating a confirmation hearing. Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas has backed down from his support for a hearing.

Judge Garland also met Tuesday with Sen. John Boozman, Arkansas Republican, who said he told the nominee that “the next president should fill the vacancy.”

“My position is firm,” Mr. Boozman said in a statement. “That means I will not advocate for hearings or a vote, nor will I support filling the vacancy with President Obama’s pick after the election.”

On the Democratic side, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire met with the nominee and praised his “extensive legal career.”

“It’s time for the Republican majority to schedule hearings and a vote,” said Ms. Shaheen.

As the Senate returned to work in Washington this week, the White House and its allies are getting more personal in the targeting of individual Republican senators in the nomination battle.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest singled out Sen. Tom Cotton, wondering aloud why the Arkansas Republican refused to meet with Judge Garland while his colleague Mr. Boozman had done so.

“Is he not going to show that same old-fashioned Southern hospitality to Chief Judge Garland?” Mr. Earnest asked.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, criticized Mr. Moran and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska on the Senate floor for reversing their support for hearings. “I hope the remaining Republican senators who were open to a meeting will stand firm,” Mr. Reid said.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, said Republican senators know “in their hearts” that Mr. McConnell’s position against hearings is wrong.

“In unguarded moments back home, they tell their constituents they represent what they really feel,” Mr. Durbin said. “And then they face the music.”

He said the backlash takes the form of a call from Mr. McConnell, who criticizes them for breaking ranks, and then admonishment from the conservative activist network funded partly by the billionaire Koch brothers and super PACs.

“And pretty soon, they’re quiet again,” Mr. Durbin said.

Mr. Obama will make another public pitch for the nomination Thursday during a visit to the University of Chicago law school.

Judge Garland also found himself in an unusual position for a Supreme Court nominee Tuesday — as the target of a judicial misconduct complaint by an activist conservative lawyer.

Ty Clevenger, who describes himself as “a gun-owning, pro-life, meat-eating Republican,” sent a letter of complaint to Judge Garland and a copy to the Judicial Council of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. It accuses Judge Garland of failing to act promptly on Mr. Clevenger’s earlier misconduct complaint against a colleague, District Judge Ellen Huvelle, and “creating an overwhelming appearance of impropriety.”

In his complaint, Mr. Clevenger said he is facing possible disbarment because of his actions as a “whistleblower” against Judge Huvelle, who presided in a case pertaining to the dissolution of a law partnership. Mr. Clevenger’s client was on the losing side of that case.

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