Updated on April 1 at 3:10 p.m. President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee will meet next week with two more Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and John Boozman of Arkansas, as Republican leadership in the chamber holds strong on their pledge to not consider the nomination, vowing not to hold a hearing or a vote.
Collins announced Friday she would sit down on Tuesday with Merrick Garland, the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Boozman, according to a White House official, will meet with her that same day.
The Collins and Boozman meetings will bring Garland’s total Republican sit-downs to three. Senators are returning to D.C. on Monday after a two-week recess.
Also on Tuesday, Garland will meet with Democrat Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, her office announced, and Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., according to the White House official.
Wednesday brings meetings with a trio of Judiciary Committee Democrats: Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, Dianne Feinstein of California and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.
Everything You Need to Know About the Supreme Court Battle
The official said Thursday will bring Garland to the offices of four more Democratic senators: Richard M. Blumenthal of Connecticut, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Chris Coons of Delaware and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.
Garland already met Tuesday, March 29, with Sen. Mark S. Kirk of Illinois , a vulnerable Republican in an uphill battle for re-election in November. He’s also called for the Senate to vote on Garland.
Kirk and Collins are two of the few Republicans who have been critical of their leadership since GOP leaders made the decision shortly after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February.
“Obviously the leader’s not real happy with me,” Collins told WGAN radio in Maine on Tuesday, referring to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
“I’m a bit perplexed by his position,” Collins said. She speculated that Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential front-runner, would nominate someone further to the left than Garland.
“If the next president is a Democrat then the balance could be tipped much further than Judge Garland, based on what I know about him so far,” Collins said. She also speculated that if billionaire Donald Trump, who is leading the race for the GOP nomination, were to become president, “Who knows who his nominee would be? He’s rather unpredictable.”
“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 withold its consent, I should add,” Collins said. “My thought is that the normal process should proceed.”
As senators sit down with Garland next week, a coalition of outside liberal groups will continue to push Senate Republicans to act on his nomination. Brad Woodhouse, president of Americans United for Change, said Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., would address activists on a call with MoveOn.org on Monday. Also, he said groups will continue to hold events in states like Iowa, New Hampshire, Illinois and Wisconsin, and his group is conducting a “visibility campaign” in the nation’s capital to stress the need for nine Supreme Court justices.
“We just got started,” Woodhouse said on a Friday afternoon conference call with reporters. “We’re going to surround them. We’re going to see them at home, we’re going to see them in Washington.”
Though the White House allies declined to put a price tag on their effort, they scoffed at the more than $3 million in advertising on the Supreme Court issue spent by the conservative Judicial Crisis Network.
“Look a the millions of dollars that they have spent,” Woodhouse said. “And it’s been pissed down the drain.”
The Judicial Crisis Network’s Carrie Severino said her liberal opponents lost credibility in the debate when conservatives uncovered then-Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., who is now the vice president, and other Democrats’ statements from years ago urging the Senate not to move on GOP nominees in an election year.
Some GOP senators’ willingness to meet with Garland, she added, does not mean they favor holding a hearing or a vote.
“The White House’s attempt to manufacture Republican disunity is engaging in wishful thinking and confusing courtesy with weakness,” said Severino, the network’s chief counsel and policy director.
A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell added that the Democratic outside groups’ efforts have not swayed Republicans.
“The poll numbers haven’t moved, no Senators have changed their minds or changed their principled positions—and every liberal special interest group involved in the project must be starting to wonder about the wisdom of spending all that money for zero change,” McConnell spokesman Don Stewart wrote in an email.
Kate Ackley contributed to this report.
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