Politics

Merrick Garland AG nomination advances to Senate floor

The Senate Judiciary Committee gave its approval of President Biden‘s attorney general nominee Judge Merrick Garland on Monday, following a vote of 15 to 7.

Garland’s nomination will now advance to a vote by the full Senate, which will ultimately decide whether he becomes the next U.S. attorney general.

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“Judge Garland’s unshakeable commitment to serving his country is deeply rooted in who he is,” Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said after the vote, citing his family’s history of fleeing to the U.S. to escape anti-Semitism in Russia. “He fundamentally grasps that America’s greatness rests in our bedrock principles of justice and the rule of law.”

Leahy later added that “this is the nomination we need at the time we need it.”

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, agreed that Garland was qualified, but noted that he does harbor some reservations.

“I agree that Judge Garland has the temperament and the qualifications for the job of attorney general. As I said, I was impressed by his humility and his humanity, and I intend to support his nomination,” Cornyn said. “But I must express some concerns because I hope we’re not headed toward another Obama-Holder Justice Department take two.”

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Cornyn specifically pointed to Garland’s failure to commit to allowing John Durham’s investigation of the origins of the Russia probe to continue.

Similarly, ranking member Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said he would support Garland but also noted that he was concerned about Garland’s stance on the Second Amendment.

Garland’s bipartisan approval on Monday came as no surprise. During his two-day confirmation hearing, Garland’s reputation as a highly-respected federal judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals led many Republicans to indicate they would vote to confirm him even if they asked him some tough questions. 

“I think you’re a very good pick for this job,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said.

During last week’s meeting, the committee’s ranking member Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, praised Garland as well, but made clear that he was not in favor of all of Garland’s positions.

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“On the subject of the right to bear arms, I’ll be frank. Judge Garland’s answers on the right to bear arms have not been encouraging,” Grassley said, stating that during the confirmation hearing Garland said he would “enact President Biden’s gun-grabbing agenda.” Grassley said he hopes Garland will uphold the Justice Department’s independence and “follow the law when President Biden instructs him to violate the Second Amendment.”

Still, Grassley voted for Garland, as did several other Republicans and every Democrat on the committee. The no votes came from Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Ben Sasse, R-Neb., Josh Hawley, R-Mo., Tom Cotton, R-Ark., John Kennedy, R-La., and Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.

Garland has served on the Washington, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals since 1997. President Barack Obama nominated him to the Supreme Court in 2016, but Senate Republicans opted not to hold a hearing, waiting until after that year’s presidential election to allow President Donald Trump to select Justice Neil Gorsuch instead.

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