- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Senate Democrats said Tuesday that Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama’s pick to fill the empty seat on the Supreme Court, has now set a record for the longest confirmation battle in history, and urged Republicans to speed him through.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said it was wrong to deny Judge Garland the nomination so GOP presidential pick Donald Trump — “a bigot,” Mr. Reid said — can fill the seat on the court.

Republican leaders are in Cleveland to officially nominate Mr. Trump this week, but Mr. Reid said they should ditch the convention and return to D.C.

“Instead of taking the longest Senate vacation in more than 60 years to coronate a bigot they want to shape the Supreme Court in his own image, Republicans should return to Washington and give Judge Garland the fair hearing and vote that he deserves,” the Nevada Democrat said.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, blasted Republicans for a “partisan” fight over Judge Garland, and said the battle has “led to a diminished Supreme Court.”

Indeed, the court deadlocked 4-4 on a couple of big cases this year, leaving lower rulings in place. But that was a small minority of cases, and even with eight justices the court spoke in major decisions, including a majority opinion upholding a Texas university’s affirmative action policy, and another decision overturning Texas’s law imposing strict health standards on abortion clinics.

Republicans who are blocking the Garland nomination say Democrats’ claims of partisanship are hypocritical.

GOP leaders say they’re only following the “Biden rule,” which they named after Vice President Joseph R. Biden, a former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee who once delivered a fiery speech insisting presidents’ nominees to the high court should be blocked in the latter months of an administration so voters have a chance to weigh in.

That would mean Mr. Trump would fill the seat should he win the election. Mr. Trump earlier this year released a list of names he might consider for the court, earning praise from Republicans for the conservative, pro-life bent of his picks.

Judge Garland, who currently sits on the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, was nominated 125 days ago.

Democrats said that over the last four decades, the average length of time from nomination to confirmation has been 67 days — or about half the time Judge Garland’s nomination has percolated.

But the issue has not gained the kind of traction Democrats had hoped. Mr. Reid had predicted that the GOP would face such intense pressure that it would cave and confirm Judge Garland.

Democrats are now counting on voters to punish Republicans on Election Day.

That’s particularly true in Iowa, where Democratic nominee Patty Judge is trying to unseat Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, who has declined to hold a hearing on Judge Garland.

“It’s shameful that Chuck Grassley is choosing to play political games with the Supreme Court vacancy in order to keep it open for Donald Trump’s nominee,” Ms. Judge said in a statement Tuesday.

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