Judge Merrick Garland will get a meeting with Sen. Pat Toomey. But it probably won’t be a long one.
Mr. Toomey, R-PA., said on Wednesday that he’d meet with Judge Garland, who has been nominated by President Obama to fill the U.S. Supreme Court seat of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, out of courtesy to both Judge Garland and the president.
But Mr. Toomey, who will face a re-election challenge in the fall, said in a statement to not expect much else.
“The vacancy left by Justice Scalia's passing will not be filled until after the American people weigh in and select a new president, and I believe that is the best approach for deciding whether to alter the balance of the Supreme Court,” Mr. Toomey said in the statement. “I plan on making that clear to Judge Garland when I meet with him."
That Mr. Toomey would meet with Judge Garland, the current chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, is something of a surprise, but his stance is not. Almost immediately after Justice Scalia’s death, Republican senators took a hard line on any replacement to be named by President Obama, saying the seat should be filled by the next president. Mr. Toomey, in fact, said he would “be happy to carefully consider” Judge Garland if he were to be nominated by the winner of this fall’s election.
Democrats have done their best to paint the Republican reaction as another example of the obstructionist majority in Congress. Sen. Bob Casey, Mr. Toomey’s Democratic colleague, met with Judge Garland Tuesday, saying he was impressed by the judge’s academic credentials and his broad legal experience.
The stance of the Republicans – particularly those hoping to win re-election in the fall – has become a campaign issue. Earlier this week progressive PAC American Bridge 21st Century issued ads targeting Mr. Toomey and other Republican senators on the issue, and his potential opponents in the fall have noticed as well.
“Sen. Toomey hasn’t changed his stance and is ready to let Donald Trump select the next Supreme Court justice,” Sabrina Singh, spokeswoman for Katie McGinty, said in a statement. “Toomey’s insistence on playing political games with the Supreme Court runs directly counter to what Pennsylvanians are telling him: do your job.”
“When Toomey finally agrees to meet with Judge Garland, it is to inform Garland he won’t actually consider his qualifications – demonstrating again that Toomey cares more about obstruction than justice and more about politics and himself than people,” Joe Sestak said in a statement.