On March 16, 2016 President Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to fill the vacancy left on the U.S. Supreme Court after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death on February 13th. Justice Scalia is widely recognized as one of the most conservative members of the Court, and replacing his seat with a liberal or even moderate justice may shift the balance of the Court for the foreseeable future.
President Obama is in a unique situation where, as a Democratic President he will be sending his nominee for appointment before a Republican-controlled Senate. The Republican Senate leaders have made it clear that they do not intend to cast a vote until a new President is elected, whereas Senate Democrats argue that there is ample time to vote on a nominee before the general election in November.
Judge Garland is currently the Chief Judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Judge Garland received support from both parties in the Senate when he was appointed to this court in 1997, with a bipartisan vote of 76-23. Judge Garland is considered to have more federal judicial experience that any Supreme Court nominee in history.
Judge Garland is considered a moderate judge and may give the Republicans who plan on delaying the vote a run for their money. Seven Republicans still in the Senate voted to confirm Judge Garland 18 years ago when he was nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C.
Obama is playing it safe by nominating a moderate, but some Democrats have expressed distaste for putting another white male on the bench rather than a woman or minority. Some Democrats are also hesitant about Garland because they are unsure on some of his views on hot topics, such as a reproductive rights and the separation of church and state.