As Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland continued to make the rounds with Democratic senators this week, activists fanned out across the country to picket GOP lawmakers refusing to consider President Barack Obama's choice.
A protest formed Wednesday outside GOP Sen. Patrick J. Toomey's Pittsburgh office, one day after his Pennsylvania colleague Sen. Bob Casey met with Garland on Capitol Hill.
Toomey, who is facing a tough re-election bid, said Wednesday he would sit down with Garland, but would stress that there should be no consideration of a Supreme Court nominee until after the November election.
"President Obama’s team has asked if I would meet with Judge Merrick Garland, and I have agreed to do so out of courtesy and respect for both the president and the judge," Toomey said in a statement. "The vacancy left by Justice Scalia's passing will not be filled until after the American people weigh in and select a new president, and I believe that is the best approach for deciding whether to alter the balance of the Supreme Court."
The events mark the latest in a series of efforts by liberal groups and Senate Democrats to keep the standoff over the Supreme Court nominee at the forefront, even as senators are back home for a two-week recess.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley, who tours each of the 99 counties in Iowa each year, will find he has some company at town hall meetings next week.
Activists from Americans United for Change are planning to hold rallies outside events in Osceola and Lyon Counties next week as part of the #DoYourJob campaign.
Senate Republican leadership has been firm in its stance that Garland, chief judge on the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, will not receive a hearing or a vote, and that the next president should fill the court's vacancy. Still, Democrats are hoping public pressure will cause Republicans to relent.
Speaking with public radio in Maine Wednesday, GOP Sen. Susan Collins encouraged Grassley's committee to hold hearings.
"The only way that the Senate can reach reasonable and informed decisions on nominees to the highest court in the land is for us follow the regular process," Collins said. "And that means having these individual one-on-one meetings, and then also the Judiciary Committee, in my view, should hold the kind of in-depth hearings that it has traditionally held."
Grassley has been a focus of supporters of the Supreme Court nomination, along with more vulnerable incumbents who are on the ballot in 2016. On Monday, more than 40 liberal groups organized a day of action with events in 15 states, including those with tight Senate races.
Meanwhile, Garland is meeting with the few Democratic senators still in Washington during the recess. Along with Casey, Garland met Tuesday with Sen. Charles E. Schumer, third in Democratic leadership, posing for photos on the East Front of the Capitol that overlooks the Supreme Court itself.
To counter the nomination, the conservative Judicial Crisis Network announced new digital advertising that seeks to highlight liberal positions taken by Garland in his career, including his record of siding with the Environmental Protection Agency in regulatory cases. The group has spent roughly $4 million on its campaign so far.
McConnell also referred to Garland's record during his interviews on a number of Sunday shows, pointing out that the National Rifle Association opposes Garland's nomination.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, suggested that Republicans discussing Garland's record could signify a shift in their stance.
"I do think that’s interesting because their original argument was that he shouldn’t have a hearing at all and that they wouldn’t even entertain discussion about it," Klobuchar told reporters after meeting with Garland Wednesday morning. She later added, "The fact that we’re starting to discuss some of these cases, I think is a good thing.”
Klobuchar said they discussed his background as a judge and as a prosecutor. She wanted to ensure that the meeting was exactly the same as when she met with now-Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, Obama's two other nominees to the high court.
"Well for me it was really important, as our staff knows, to make it the exact same. I’m like, ‘No I’m going to sit in the same place I sat before,'" Klobuchar said, "because I think it’s really important that we consider him as the nominee that he is."
Klobuchar said Garland seemed optimistic that he would eventually be on the court, despite GOP opposition.
"I don’t think he would be going through this entire process, and all these interviews, and subject to all this scrutiny if he didn’t want the job and didn’t think it was a reality that he could get the job,” she said.
Cameras and reporters greet Garland at each of his meetings, even pointing at him through the glass doors of Klobuchar's office as he surveyed the paintings on her wall.
Though House members do not play a role in Supreme Court confirmations, representatives on that side of the Capitol are paying attention to Garland's nomination.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is in the process of investigating judicial complaints, after a lawsuit was filed on March 16 accusing Chief Judge Richard W. Roberts of the U.S. District Court for D.C. of raping a witness for a case he prosecuted in Utah 35 years ago.
Garland and Roberts are longtime colleagues in D.C., and Garland has recused himself from considering any possible disciplinary action against his fellow judge, who retired this month. Initial reports indicated that the Oversight Committee could question Garland, but a committee source said there are no plans for that to happen.
In a letter to the U.S. Courts administrative office sent Wednesday,Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz requested a briefing on the matter, and answers to a series of questions, including details on the process of appointing a chief judge to replace Garland in light of his recusal.
The case was filed in federal court in Chaffetz's home state of Utah.
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