- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 1, 2016

As senators go home for a two-week recess, conservative groups are launching a new round of TV and digital ads against Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland in key states, while liberal allies of the White House are ramping up pressure in battleground states to force Senate Republicans to vote on the nomination.

The Judicial Crisis Network is highlighting what it calls Judge Garland’s liberal record with a $500,000 ad buy in Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire, North Dakota and West Virginia. In what one operative termed “the first wave of offense,” JCN also will send emails to about 1.5 million conservative activists in those states to call attention to Judge Garland’s record and ask them to sign a petition.

Heritage Action and the Susan B. Anthony List also are marshaling grass-roots supporters to attend lawmakers’ town hall meetings in opposition to the nomination, and to make phone calls.

“Merrick Garland will not be confirmed, and the unions should stop wasting workers’ hard-earned dues to push the nomination,” said Dan Holler, Heritage Action’s vice president of communications and government relations. “Heritage Action will continue to focus on the real issues facing hardworking Americans and advocate for policy solutions that address those concerns.”

Progressives, meanwhile, are planning to intensify their efforts in nine states where Republican senators face reelection, hoping to force GOP leadership to hold a confirmation hearing on Judge Garland. The group Americans United for Change embarking on a nine-day “mobile billboard tour” featuring local leaders “to underscore the urgent need for nine Justices.”

“The message to swing-state Republicans is simple: do your job and fill the vacant seat on the Supreme Court, or someone else will fill yours,” the group said in a statement. The tour will hit Arizona, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

The group said it’s expanding the campaign to new states “after recent polls in New Hampshire, Ohio, Wisconsin and elsewhere clearly show that this issue is taking a toll on the political prospects of Republican senators.” Progressives say they now believe Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Roy Blunt of Missouri and Richard Burr of North Carolina are paying a price in the polls for the GOP’s blockade of Judge Garland.

The competing campaigns are facing a dwindling number of days in which the Senate could take action before its traditional August recess. After that, both sides agree, the fall congressional elections and the presidential campaign will dominate the attention of lawmakers and voters alike.

Since President Obama nominated Judge Garland nearly seven weeks ago, only two Senate Republicans have come out in support of holding a confirmation hearing. Fewer than 20 of 54 Republican senators have agreed to hold courtesy meetings with the nominee.

Mr. Obama devoted his weekly address to the nomination on Saturday, accusing Senate Republicans of shirking their constitutional duty consider the nominee who would replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

“So far, most Senate Republicans have refused to even meet with Judge Garland,” Mr. Obama said. “But they’ve still found time to head home for recess. This is an abdication of the Senate’s responsibility.”

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the administration isn’t conceding that the GOP will be able to stall the nomination until a new president takes office.

“It is clear that they are stalling, that they aren’t doing their jobs and they’re hoping that no one will notice,” Mr. Earnest said. “I think unfortunately, they’re going to be wrong about that. If they wanted to reverse course, there’s still ample time for them to do so. There is no reason that Republicans couldn’t act quickly to schedule a hearing, put Chief Judge Garland through his paces.”

Mr. Obama will conduct a round of interviews Monday with television anchors from Des Moines, Iowa; Manchester, New Hampshire; Cincinnati, Ohio; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Kansas City, Missouri; and Phoenix, Arizona to call on senators to give Judge Garland a “fair hearing and up-or-down vote,” the White House said.

The White House is granting the local anchors all-day access to Mr. Obama’s top advisers.

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

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