Sat. Jul 13th, 2024

Yesterday, President Obama fulfilled his constitutional duty and nominated Chief Judge Merrick Garland to fill the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court.

So who is Merrick Garland? And what happens now?

The reporters I talk to every day, and Americans across the country, are asking a lot of good questions about Judge Garland and the next steps in the Supreme Court nomination process.

Got a few of your own? Ask away today using #AskPressSec on Twitter and I’ll answer from @PressSec at 5:30pm ET.

In the meantime, here are a few answers to questions about the President’s nominee that we’ve been getting here at the White House.

Q: Who is Chief Judge Merrick Garland and why did President Obama choose him?

Check out this video to hear from Judge Garland

Meet Merrick Garland, President Obama’s Supreme Court Nominee
As Chief Judge of the most important federal appeals court in the nation, there is no question that Merrick Garland is eminently qualified to immediately serve on the Supreme Court. A meticulous jurist with a record of forging consensus among judges across the ideological spectrum, he was confirmed to sit on the U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C. in 1997 in a strong bipartisan vote of 76 to 23. Today, as Chief Judge of the D.C. Circuit, Judge Garland has more federal judicial experience than any Supreme Court nominee in history.

Born and raised in Illinois and a devoted family man, Judge Garland has dedicated his life to serving the American people, taking on some of the most difficult anti-terrorism cases in our nation’s history. In the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, he led the investigation and prosecution that ultimately brought Timothy McVeigh to justice. As a mentor to his law clerks and a tutor to elementary school children, he is a dedicated and compassionate public servant whom conservatives and progressives praise for his rigorous intellect, his respect for the role of the judiciary, and his mastery of the law.

And that’s exactly why the President chose to nominate him.

Q: What happens after the President chooses a Supreme Court nominee?

The Constitution states that it is the President’s responsibility to nominate a person to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court, a duty he fulfilled yesterday when he sent a letter notifying the Senate that he has selected Chief Judge Garland.

Meet Merrick Garland, President Obama’s Supreme Court Nominee

Now, according to the Constitution, it is the Senate’s job to advise and provide consent on the President’s nominee. That means that Senate Judiciary Committee members should hold a hearing to vet Chief Judge Garland, provide their recommendation, and then the full Senate should debate and vote on whether or not to confirm Judge Garland to the Senate. Every nominee since 1875 has received a hearing and a vote.

When it comes to the Supreme Court, this would be an unprecedented level of obstruction. Every nominee who was not withdrawn has received a vote within 125 days of nomination. The Senate has almost a full year to consider and confirm a nominee. In fact, since 1975, the average time from nomination to confirmation is 67 days. The longest time before confirmation in the past three decades was 99 days, for Justice Thomas, and the last four Justices, spanning two Administrations, were confirmed in an average of 75 days.

Throughout history, members of both parties in Congress and in the White House have done their jobs so that the Judicial Branch can do its own. See what President Obama said yesterday:

President Obama signs the letter officially nominating Chief Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court

Q: Will the Senate ultimately confirm Chief Judge Garland?

Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution clearly spells out how the confirmation process is supposed to work. The President took that constitutional responsibility seriously and consulted with both Democratic and Republican Senators before choosing a nominee. He even invited them to put forward potential nominees for his consideration. The result of his consultations and rigorous process is the decision to nominate a thoughtful and meticulous judge for the Supreme Court with a keen ability for building consensus. That’s why even Republicans have described Chief Judge Garland as a consensus nominee.

In 1997, the U.S. Senate confirmed Chief Judge Merrick Garland to the D.C. Circuit Court in a bipartisan vote of 76 to 23.

The President fully expects Congress to honor their constitutional responsibility and allow this nominee a hearing and a vote. Despite repeated declarations that they will ignore such a responsibility, the President believes there will be enough Republicans listening to Americans and editorial boards across the country to honor their oath of office and do their jobs regardless of their party’s political leadership.

Q: Does it matter that this year is a presidential election year?

No. For more than two centuries, it has been standard practice for Congress to confirm a president’s Supreme Court nominee, whether in a presidential election year or not. In fact, six Justices have been confirmed in a presidential election year since 1900. Of those six Justices, three have been Republicans. The most recent Justice to be confirmed in an election year was Justice Kennedy — appointed by President Reagan — who was confirmed by a Democratic-controlled Congress in February 1988.

Q: Where can I get the latest on what’s happening with Judge Garland and the nomination process?

Check out and follow @SCOTUSnom on Twitter to all the latest info on what’s happening with the President’s Supreme Court nominee. This is an important process that is meant to stay above politics. So make sure you stay up to date on what’s happening.
And don’t forget, if you’ve got questions, join me on Twitter at 5:30 pm ET and use the hashtag #AskPressSec.

See you online!


Josh Earnest
White House Press Secretary
The White House


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