- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Frustrated Senate Democrats will hold a mock confirmation hearing Wednesday for Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, while the White House insisted the political theater isn’t a sign the nomination is dead.

The forum will showcase former government officials and lawyers who know Judge Garland, and will testify to Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee about why the nominee is qualified for the high court.

A Republican member of the committee, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, has called the move “a desperate act.” A conservative activist leading the fight against Judge Garland said there’s no hiding the nominee’s record of siding with federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and voting to curtail Second Amendment rights.

“No matter how it’s spun or how many PR stunts the White House and Democrats try, it doesn’t change the fact that this would make the court a rubber stamp for Obama’s liberal agenda,” said Carrie Severino, chief counsel of the Judicial Crisis Network.

Judge Garland is holding courtesy meetings this week with six Senate Democrats. But in a sign that he is exhausting his possibilities, he has no meeting scheduled with Republican senators, after having met with 15 of the Senate’s 54 Republicans.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, and all the GOP members of the Judiciary Committee have vowed not to hold a confirmation hearing for Judge Garland, saying they want to allow the next president to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court.

President Obama said in an interview this week that Donald Trump’s likely nomination is another reason to proceed with a vote on Judge Garland now.

“Republicans are looking at a Republican nominee who many of them say isn’t qualified to be president, much less appoint somebody,” Mr. Obama told Buzzfeed. “And it seems to me that they’d be better off going ahead and giving a hearing and a vote to somebody that they themselves in the past have said is well qualified. Precisely because this election year has been so crazy, precisely because you have a number of Republicans who have said that they’re concerned about their nominee.”

Publicly at least, the White House said it’s not giving up on the Garland nomination, believing that Republican senators in swing states could pay a price in November for blocking the nomination.

“We’re going to continue to raise pressure on Republicans,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest. “All of the publicly available data that I’ve seen indicates that many Republican voters across the country are expressing concern with the way that Republicans in the Senate are refusing to do their job.”

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said the forum “allows senators, the press and the public to learn more about this highly qualified nominee and the importance of a fully functioning Supreme Court.”

Among those invited to appear are Abner Mikva, who, like Judge Garland, also held the post of chief judge of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. But Republicans say Judge Mikva wrote an op-ed in 2002 that essentially supports their position that the Senate should wait until after a presidential election to confirm a Supreme Court nominee.

Other witnesses are to include Donna Bucella, a former prosecutor who worked with Judge Garland on the Oklahoma City bombing case in 1995.

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