- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 27, 2016

The “Full Grassley” could get heated this week.

Liberal activists are expected to target Sen. Chuck Grassley during his regular county meetings in Iowa on Monday and Tuesday over his refusal to hold hearings on President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Merrick Garland.

Each year, Iowa’s senior senator holds the town-hall-style meetings in all 99 counties, a feat known as the “Full Grassley” tour. But during the Senate’s two-week Easter recess this spring, activists from groups such as MoveOn.org and Credo Action are holding events in the home states of Republican senators opposed to granting a hearing for Judge Garland.

Mr. Grassley, chairman of the SenateJudiciary Committee, is facing re-election and is a prime target.

A conservative operative said he expects “there will be a lot of attention” on Mr. Grassley’s meetings, to be held in the state’s most conservative counties, Osceola, Lyon and Sioux in the northwestern corner of the state. An Iowa group called Why Courts Matter has set up a “Where Is Chuck” hotline and email network to encourage attendance at his meetings.

Mr. Grassley, who broke with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, by agreeing to meet with Judge Garland after the recess, said in a statement that representative government “is a two-way street.”

“I’m one-half of the process and the people of Iowa are the other half,” he said. “You can’t have representative government without dialogue between elected officials and the people we represent. I appreciate the opportunity to hold town meetings, answer questions and take comments.”

Senate Democrats have been harsh in their criticism of Mr. Grassley. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada has accused him of “allowing himself and his committee to be manipulated by the Republican leader for narrow, partisan warfare.”

Democrats are hoping that Mr. Grassley is vulnerable to a challenge by former Iowa Lt. Gov. Patty Judge, a Democrat who announced her candidacy after the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

But Mr. Grassley, running for his seventh term in the Senate at age 82, seems an unlikely target for cracking under pressure. Longtime colleague Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican, recently observed: “You’re never going to bully Sen. Grassley to change his mind.”

Mr. Grassley also has the support of Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican who happens to be the second cousin of Judge Garland. Mr. Branstad said he is proud of his cousin but added, “I also respect and appreciate and support Sen. Grassley in his position.”

Still, Democrats are gleeful about other gaps emerging in the Senate Republicans’ united front. Last week, Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas became the third Republican to announce that he favors hearings and a vote on Judge Garland’s nomination, joining Republican Sens. Susan M. Collins of Maine and Mark Kirk of Illinois.

Mr. Moran, who led the Senate Republicans' campaign committee in 2014 and is running for re-election this year, is facing a backlash from conservatives. Adam Brandon, head of the conservative activist group FreedomWorks, said Mr. Moran’s support for a vote on Judge Garland “is a perfect example as to why conservative activists have no faith in their elected officials.”

“They send a signal that Republicans will sell out their principles when it becomes politically convenient to do so,” he said.

Hoping to head off a firestorm, Mr. Moran issued a statement of clarification late Friday that he plans to vote against Judge Garland if the confirmation process gets that far.

“I am opposed to President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee and this administration’s attempt to put another liberal judge on the Supreme Court,” Mr. Moran said. “As I have said since the vacancy was created, I believe I have a duty to ask tough questions and demand answers. I am certain a thorough investigation would expose Judge Garland’s record and judicial philosophy, and disqualify him in the eyes of Kansans and Americans.”

One conservative group is planning an ad campaign against Mr. Moran, and another is threatening to support a more conservative primary challenger against the freshman senator.

“Grass-roots activists in Kansas and across the country are furious that Senator Jerry Moran has decided to join President Obama in denying them a voice in the next Supreme Court Justice with their votes in November,” Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, said in a statement. “It’s this kind of outrageous behavior that leads Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund activists and supporters to think seriously about encouraging Dr. Milton Wolf to run against Sen. Moran in the August GOP primary.”

Two years ago, Dr. Wolf lost a primary challenge to longtime Republican Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas.

Brian Rogers, executive director of America Rising Squared, a conservative group investigating Judge Garland’s record and portraying him as a liberal, said the Republicans’ unity is not in danger of caving.

“Republicans across the country have been truly energized by Leader McConnell taking a hard line on Obama and the Supreme Court,” he said. “The conventional wisdom in Washington has been that McConnell would somehow be forced to fold, but that’s not happening.”

Mr. Obama, too, is trying to raise the pressure on individual Republican senators. He wrote an op-ed Friday in the Houston Chronicle urging Texas to call on Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn to allow a vote on the nomination.

“I’m asking people here in Texas to make your voices heard,” Mr. Obama wrote. “Let your senators know how important this is. Tell them that our courts should be above politics, not an extension of politics.”

Mr. Cruz, a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, and Mr. Cornyn, a member of the SenateJudiciary Committee, say the decision should be delayed until the next president takes office.

Mr. Obama said the presidential election is no excuse to leave open a vacancy on the Supreme Court.

“I understand that we’re in the midst of an especially volatile political season,” Mr. Obama said. “But at a time when our politics are so polarized, we should treat a process of this magnitude — the appointment of a Supreme Court justice — with the seriousness it deserves. I’ve done my constitutional duty. Now it’s up to each senator to fulfill his or hers.”

Vice President Joseph R. Biden said Thursday that Republicans have not offered any “substantive criticism” of Judge Garland, a moderate who has been praised by Republican lawmakers in the past.

“You’ve heard no one question his integrity, you’ve heard no one question his scholarship,” Mr. Biden said in a speech at Georgetown University.

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