Maine’s longtime Republican Sen. Susan Collins vocalized her support for Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland last week, saying she’s “more convinced than ever” that her Senate colleagues should end their blockade of a Garland appointment, and move forward in the nominating process by holding public hearings for the appeals court judge.
Garland was nominated by President Barack Obama following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, who passed away in early February.
Collins met with Garland for roughly an hour in her office in Washington last Tuesday, discussing topics including the Second Amendment, executive overreach and the role and perceptions of the high court. After the meeting, Collins said Garland’s answers were thorough and impressive, encouraging her to again go public in support of the traditional nomination process.
“It was an excellent meeting that allowed us to explore many of the issues that I would raise with any nominee to the Supreme Court,” Collins said during a seven-minute press conference after her meeting with the SCOTUS nominee. “The meeting left me more convinced than ever that the process should proceed. The next step, in my view, should be public hearings before the judiciary committee, so that the issues that we explored in my office can be publicly aired, and so that senators can have a better opportunity to flesh out all of the issues that we discussed.”
Despite supporting follow-through on behalf of the Senate in considering the nomination, Collins didn’t outright support a Garland appointment. Collins made clear that hearings must take place for her to take a firm position on the president’s nominee.
However, Collins’ rhetoric during her press conference and her support for continuing the nomination process breaks ranks with Republican Party leadership, who vowed just hours after Scalia’s death to hold out on proceeding with Obama’s nomination until after the November elections. Collins was one of the first Republican Senators to come forward in support of the traditional nomination process after Scalia’s passing, following up on her word by meeting with Garland.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reiterated his party’s stance last week during a press conference of his own.
“I think it’s safe to say there will not be hearings or votes,” McConnell said. “I think it’s also safe to say the next president, whoever that may be, is going to be the person who chooses the next Supreme Court justice.”
Garland is viewed by many as a moderate, but Republicans have strong views about his stance on the Second Amendment given his track record as a judge on the DC Circuit. Many Republicans feel the D.C. v. Heller decision would be overturned if Garland assumes Scalia’s seat.
Collins’ move to support the traditional nomination process likely won’t influence many of her hardliner Republican colleagues to follow suit, but it does show her constituency that she wants to remain above the partisan debate that has taken place in Washington D.C. for the last two months, for better or for worse.