- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Sen. Charles E. Schumer emerged from a meeting with Judge Merrick Garland Tuesday and said he’s convinced President Obama’s pick to be the next Supreme Court Justice will eventually overcome GOP opposition and win confirmation.

Mr. Schumer, who is in line to become Senate Democrats’ leader next year, said Judge Garland is a “brilliant” judge who is interested in following the law, not in imposing a political ideology from the bench.

And the New York Democrat said that if more Republicans meet with Judge Garland, they’ll end up supporting his nomination and pressuring Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to allow hearings and schedule a vote on him.

“As this process moves forward, Sen. McConnell is going to find himself increasingly isolated in his obstruction. Ironically, the only two people he’s going to have in his corner are going to be Donald Trump and Ted Cruz,” Mr. Schumer said, naming the two front-runners for Republicans’ presidential nomination.

Mr. Obama tapped Judge Garland last week to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Judge Garland serves on the federal appeals court for the District of Columbia circuit, which is considered the top training ground for future justices.

GOP leaders said even before Mr. Obama tapped Judge Garland that they would refuse to advance any nominee named by this president, saying the decision should be put to voters in this year’s presidential election.

With key pressure groups including the National Rifle Association and National Federation of Independent Business expressing skepticism of Judge Garland, most Republicans have stuck with their leaders in refusing to budge.

That includes several key senators who face tough re-election races this year. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, in an op-ed published late last week in the Cincinnati Enquirer, said he would be willing to meet with Judge Garland, but said it won’t sway his opposition to filling Justice Scalia’s seat before a new president is picked.

“I have concluded that the best thing for the country is to trust the American people to weigh in and to have the confirmation process take place in a less partisan atmosphere,” he wrote.

Democrats say 11 other GOP senators in addition to Mr. Portman had signaled a willingness to meet Judge Garland.

Mr. Schumer said those amounted to cracks in the GOP facade of opposition.

The critical step, however, is a confirmation hearing. Mr. Schumer said if Judge Garland can earn a hearing, he’ll be assured of confirmation because of how qualified he is.

Republicans have said they won’t convene hearings, but Mr. Schumer predicted they’ll cave on that.

“The list of those willing to meet is growing every week. And my view? Once they meet with Judge Garland — they’re decent people — they’re going to see he’s a straight shooter, he’s a brilliant mind, he’s going to be a great Supreme Court justice,” Mr. Schumer said.

A Monmouth University poll released Monday found 69 percent of Americans said the Senate should hold hearings on Judge Garland’s nomination.

“The GOP leadership say they won’t hold hearings on Obama’s nomination in order to give the American people a voice in the process in November. The American people don’t buy that argument,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

The poll found not much of the public is familiar with Judge Garland. Some 49 percent said they haven’t heard enough about the judge to say whether he’s qualified to sit on the Supreme Court.

Mr. Schumer said the hearings will change that.

“Even if they throw the kitchen sink at him, Republicans won’t be able to lay a glove on Judge Garland,” he predicted.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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