McConnell to support Garland for attorney general

By | February 23, 2021

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will support Merrick Garland’s nomination for attorney general, five years after blocking the judge’s path to the Supreme Court.

“I do,” McConnell told POLITICO Tuesday afternoon when asked if he plans to back Garland. The Kentucky Republican did not elaborate when asked about his decision.

In 2016, McConnell, who was Senate Majority Leader at the time, declined to consider Garland’s nomination by then-President Barack Obama to fill the vacancy left by the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. McConnell argued that the future of the high court seat was for the American people to decide, given that it was an election year and the White House and Senate were controlled by different parties.

Republicans, after winning the White House, filled Scalia’s former seat with Justice Neil Gorsuch in 2017. McConnell has described his decision to block Garland as the “most consequential thing I’ve ever done.”

Senate Republicans have maintained that their decision to prevent Garland from receiving a hearing in 2016 was not personal. And during the Trump administration, McConnell recommended Garland to lead the FBI.

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a two-day confirmation hearing this week for Garland. Several Republicans have already announced their support for him to lead the Justice Department, including Sens. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas), a McConnell confidant. Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, also spoke positively of Garland on Monday.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a committee vote on Garland’s nomination March 1 and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin said he is hoping for final confirmation next week.

Garland is currently a judge on the powerful D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, where he also served as chief judge. Prior to being named to the federal bench, Garland worked at the U.S. Justice Department, where he played a key role in overseeing the criminal investigation into the 1995 Oklahoma City bombings.