Policy

Meeting with Merrick

What do you talk about when there's really nothing to talk about?

Merrick Garland, center, may not be talking, but the 40 senators he has met with share what they discussed in their meetings. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

When Judge Merrick Garland walked into Sen. Tim Kaine's office late one afternoon, the Virginia Democrat asked the Supreme Court nominee what number this meeting was for him.  

"I don't know," Garland replied as cameras clicked away, capturing the pair moving toward the couch in Kaine office. He recovered quickly and quipped, "Number one!"  

The chief judge of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has been on a whirlwind tour of Senate offices ever since President Barack Obama nominated him on March 16 . Since then, Garland has sat down with 44 senators, 30 Democrats and an independent who caucuses with them, and 14 Republicans, in meetings ranging from 15 minutes to more than an hour, to discuss his background and judicial philosophy.  

In most of his meetings with Republicans , he has heard why they won't consider his nomination this year, then proceeded to discuss matters both personal and professional.  

Garland isn't talking, so we asked senators to share what they discussed in these meetings:

Republicans

   

Kelly Ayotte, N.H.:  Said they had a "cordial" meeting. "I explained my view that, given we are in the midst of a vigorous presidential election, I believe the people should have a voice on this important nomination."  

John Boozman, Ark.:  Said the next president should fill the vacancy. "We just had a good visit."  

Susan Collins, Maine: Discussed separation of powers and the Second Amendment. “My meeting today with Judge Garland left me more convinced than ever that the process should proceed."  

Jeff Flake, Ariz.:  “He is obviously a man of accomplishment and keen intellect. He is also kind and engaging.”  

Lindsey Graham, S.C.:  Called Garland a "good guy" and qualified for the post. He said they discussed "the politicization of the judiciary."  

Charles E. Grassley, Iowa:  Over breakfast , Grassley explained why the Senate will not consider Garland's nomination.  

John Hoeven, N.D.: In an hour-long meeting, Hoeven discussed the judge's "biography and resume," a spokesman said.  

James M. Inhofe, Okla : In a joint meeting with fellow Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford , he thanked Garland for his work prosecuting the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing case.  

Mark S. Kirk, Ill.: Called on the Senate to vote on Garland's nomination. "Part of my job is providing advice and consent and getting to know my own constituent from Lincoln Park."  

James Lankford, Okla : In a joint meeting with fellow Oklahoma Sen. James M. Inhofe, he thanked Garland for his work prosecuting the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing case. “This was not some interview for a potential justice, so we didn't talk about issues and the topic never came up, quite frankly of the whole process,” Lankford told News on 6. Lisa Murkowksi, Alaska.: Discussed Alaskan issues including gun rights, public lands and resource development, since Garland has jurisdiction over some of these issues in his current post.  

Rob Portman, Ohio: Said the Senate would not consider the nomination, but declined to elaborate on other topics discussed. "It was a private meeting."  

Mike Rounds, S.D.:  Said it was a cordial chat.  "We talked about hiking in the Badlands, and hiking in the Black Hills, and talked a little bit about our families," he told KWSN News .  

Patrick J. Toomey, Pa.:  Had concerns about Garland's record and judicial philosophy. "He did not assuage my concerns."

Democrats

   

Tammy Baldwin, Wis.: Affirmed her conviction that Garland deserved a hearing and a vote, she told  the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.  

Michael Bennet, Colo.: Said the meeting "confirmed what I already know: Judge Garland is an intelligent and pragmatic jurist who is extraordinarily well-qualified to serve on the Supreme Court."  

Richard Blumenthal, Conn.:  "I regret that he and the judiciary have been dragged into the mud and muck of partisan politics."  

Cory Booker, N.J.:  Told Garland, as the cameras flashed, that the media attention is "at a level that has probably never happened before." Later he said, "[Garland] seems strong and in good spirits."  

Sherrod Brown, Ohio:  Pledged to support Garland's nomination. "He's a Cubs fan, I'm a Cleveland Indians fan. That didn't get in the way."  

Benjamin L. Cardin, Md.:  Discussed campaign finance, the prison at Guantanmo Bay, Cuba, civil rights and the value of pro bono legal work.  

Bob Casey, Pa.:  Discussed Garland's work as a prosecutor, particularly in the Oklahoma City bombing case.  

Chris Coons, Del.:  The meeting was "constructive," and involved discussions on Garland's background. "I have not decided how I will ultimately vote.”  

Joe Donnelly, Ind.:  Discussed his work on the D.C. Circuit and the role of the judiciary. "I had the chance to get to know him."  

Richard J. Durbin, Ill.: Gave Garland a biography of civil rights-era judge Frank M. Johnson Jr. because it is about "the courage of a federal judge who stood up at a moment in American history and made a difference."  

Dianne Feinstein, Calif.: After her seventh meeting with a Supreme Court nominee, she said: "What comes over is that he's erudite and wise and knowledgeable."  

Al Franken, Minn.: "Judge Garland is a consensus candidate."  

Kirsten Gillibrand, N.Y.:  "It is clear he is highly qualified to serve on the Supreme Court."  

Heidi Heitkamp, N.D.: Discussed his role as a prosecutor. "And I joked with him about how it’s hard to be a moderate in this town."  

Tim Kaine, Va.:  Will encourage colleagues to "respect the traditions of the Senate" and the Constitution.  

Amy Klobuchar, Minn.:  Discussed how he finds consensus for judicial opinions. "He’s known as being a good listener."  

Patrick J. Leahy, Vt.: Was the first senator to meet with Garland. "What you see is what you get with him."  

Joe Manchin III, W. Va.: Discussed "everything from our children to our family, a bit about background and the job specifically.”  

Claire McCaskill, Mo.: "The full Senate should have the same chance to question Judge Garland’s credentials as I did."  

Robert Menendez, N.J.: Said the meeting "made clear to me that [Garland] is a careful, thoughtful jurist with a deep appreciation and impressive intellect of the law.”  

Patty Murray, Wash.:  Discussed privacy rights, women's reproductive rights, campaign finance and labor organizing rights.  

Gary Peters, Mich.: "I'm impressed by his distinguished credentials & his thoughtful demeanor."  

Harry Reid, Nev.: "He's a tough man. He's willing to take whatever they throw at him."  

Charles E. Schumer, N.Y.:  Discussed Garland's background and judicial philosophy, and reminisced about being in college in the late 1960s and early 1970s. "Those were quite interesting days.”  

Jeanne Shaheen, N.H.:  Discussed building consensus on the court and the rule of law.  

Debbie Stabenow, Mich.:  Had a "productive conversation" about his judicial approach and his work as a prosecutor.  

Mark Warner, Va.:   Asked about his judicial philosophy. "Virginians and Americans deserve the same opportunity to hear his thoughtful answers."  

Elizabeth Warren, Mass.: "For decades, Chief Judge Garland has served his country with distinction."  

Sheldon Whitehouse, R.I.:  Served with Garland in the Justice Department during the Clinton administration. "We talked about old times.”  

Ron Wyden, Ore.: Had a "very valuable meeting" where they discussed voting rights, campaign finance, encryption and privacy issues.

Independents

Angus S. King, Maine: "We had both recently seen 'Hamilton' … that led us into the discussion of the founding of this country."

Contact Bowman at  bridgetbowman@rollcall.com  and follow her on Twitter at @bridgetbhc .

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