Senate Democrats held a mock confirmation hearing Wednesday for Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, an exercise in political theater boycotted by Republicans who are blocking the nomination.
Witnesses told Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee that Judge Garland, nominated by President Obama in March to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, is a highly qualified jurist and a caring family man.
Donna Bucella, who worked with Judge Garland in the Justice Department on the Oklahoma City bombing case in 1995, said she marveled at his ability to take charge of the investigation without allowing emotions to interfere in their job.
“Merrick is calm under pressure,” she said. “You never really know what’s going on in his head. He’s always 25 steps ahead of everybody else.”
Former federal judge Timothy Lewis of Pennsylvania, who served on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, called Judge Garland “a highly qualified” nominee and “a terrific human being.”
He also rejected Republicans’ argument that the Senate shouldn’t confirm a nominee in a presidential election year, noting that he was confirmed for the Third Circuit in October 1992, just a few weeks before Bill Clinton’s victory for the presidency.
“I am living proof that that can happen,” Mr. Lewis said. “The Republic still survives and goes on. There was a culture of bipartisanship that is severely lacking today.”
Republican senators have called the mock hearing an act of desperation by Democrats. The Republican seats in the committee room were empty for the event.
Conservative activists who oppose the nomination criticized the hearing as meaningless posturing.
“It’s sort of sad to see what Senate Democrats have been reduced to,” said Penny Nance, CEO and president of Concerned Women for America. “There are so many challenges facing our nation; for them to waste time with this mock hearing shows how disconnected they are to the issues facing every day Americans. It should be called a ‘mockery’ hearing. They’ll amuse themselves with it, and maybe their friends on the left, but the American people have shown little interest in their political games, despite the millions Democrats have poured into bullying senators into submission.”
The forum lasted only an hour; Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the top Democrat on the panel, said at the conclusion that it was “obviously not a substitute for a hearing with Judge Garland.”
Mr. Leahy said he was glad to give others a chance to speak for Judge Garland, given conservatives’ criticism of the nominee.
“I get frustrated when I hear some of these lobbying groups go on attacks against him,” Mr. Leahy said. “He can’t respond to them.”
In a real confirmation hearing, Mr. Leahy said, “He’d swat them down.”