Sen. Mark S. Kirk said he was doing his job by meeting with President Barack Obama’s nominee to become a Supreme Court justice — Merrick Garland.
“Part of my job is providing advice and consent and getting to know my own constituent from Lincoln Park,” the Illinois Republican told reporters in his office Tuesday.
Everything You Need to Know About the Supreme Court Battle
Since the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in February, many Republicans have said the seat should be kept vacant until after the election — to let a new president make a nomination. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said he will not meet with Garland, and many Republicans say the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit should not get a confirmation hearing or a vote.
Kirk — considered one of the most vulnerable Senate Republicans up for re-election this year — said he hoped his meeting could influence his Republican colleagues. He’s fighting an uphill battle to keep his seat against Democratic opponent Rep. Tammy Duckworth.
“We need open-minded, rational, responsible people to keep an open mind to make sure the process works,” he said.
Kirk said he hoped to discuss gang violence and limits for using federal racketeering law to fight it following an outburst of Chicago-area violence last weekend.
He recently he told a Chicago radio station the Senate should “man up and cast a vote” on Garland.
Kirk was previously quieter about the Supreme Court selection fight, calling the debate “unseemly,” just after Scalia’s death.
On Tuesday, Duckworth’s campaign criticized Kirk for seeking “extra credit” for doing “his job.”
“While it’s nice that he’s meeting with Judge Garland, Kirk’s cynicism was revealed when he told a conservative talk radio host that he didn’t expect Mitch McConnell to allow the nomination to proceed,” Duckworth’s campaign manager Matt McGrath said in a statement. “And he’s done absolutely nothing in the meantime that would make McConnell feel the least bit inconvenienced for his obstruction.”