Two more Republican senators broke from the pack and agreed to meet with Supreme Court nominee Chief Appellate Judge Merrick B. Garland this week. Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and John Boozman of Arkansas were both scheduled to meet with Garland Tuesday, bringing the total number of one-on-one meetings between the veteran judge and GOP senators to a whopping — four.
Collins announced Friday her plans to meet with Garland in a press release on her website. She has been particularly outspoken about her view that the Senate should give Garland a hearing, saying last week she believes “the in-depth hearings [they] have on the Judiciary Committee are the best way to thoroughly understand a nominee’s views.”
Boozman’s views have been harder to pin down. A spokesman confirmed in an email to Politico that Boozman was working on a time to meet with Garland, but the Arkansas senator has said he still opposes a hearing in a lame-duck session, the Southwest Times Record reported.
Garland, the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, is well-regarded by leading members of both parties. But he has struggled to make inroads with congressional leaders — especially Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — who say the next president should be the one to appoint a replacement for the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
Collins has been critical. “I must confess that I’m a bit perplexed,” she said in an interview on WGAN, Portland, Maine, adding she saw “no basis” for the decision to refuse hearings and a floor vote.
She also suggested that a President Hillary Clinton would likely nominate a more liberal candidate than Merrick Garland and said it was too difficult to predict what kind of candidate Republican front-runner Donald Trump would nominate if he were elected.
“The Constitution clearly states that the president shall nominate individuals to serve on our courts, and then the Senate can give its advice and consent, or withhold its consent, I should add,” Collins said. “My thought is that the normal process should proceed.”
The first Republican senator to meet with Garland was Illinois’ Mark S. Kirk, who joined a long list of Democratic senators who have met or are scheduled to meet with the nominee in the coming weeks.
Other GOP senators reportedly have expressed interest in meeting with Garland though only one further meeting was scheduled as of this writing. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia is reportedly scheduled to meet with the nominee Tuesday as well.
Sens. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Mike Rounds of South Dakota have been in touch with the White House to set up appointments, aides said, and Oklahoma Sens. James Lankford and James Inhofe have said they would be willing to meet with Garland, though neither has yet been in touch with White House officials. Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire reportedly is awaiting a response from officials.