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Sen. Patty Murray meets with Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland

Jim Brunner, The Seattle Times   ·   Link to Article

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray met Wednesday with President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, declaring him a “very impressive” jurist who deserves a Senate hearing.

Garland, chief judge of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, is being blocked by Senate Republicans, who pre-emptively announced they would not consider any Obama pick to replace conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February.

Murray, in a brief phone interview, said she met with Garland for a half-hour in her Capitol Hill office Wednesday afternoon. They discussed privacy, campaign-finance laws and the politicization of the courts, she said.

Murray said the nation deserves to hear Garland’s thoughts on those and other subjects and renewed calls for Senate Republicans to grant a public hearing and vote.

“Many more of them are starting to meet with him. I think they will be as impressed as I am,” Murray said. She said senators are hearing from constituents “that it is their job” to give Obama’s pick due consideration.

Garland has been making the rounds in Washington, D.C., and met Tuesday with Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. But there has been no shift in the GOP’s stance on his nomination.

Murray’s criticism of Senate Republicans drew charges of hypocrisy from Chris Vance, the former state GOP chairman who is challenging Murray’s bid this year for a fifth term.

Vance pointed to Murray’s 2006 vote to filibuster Samuel Alito, President Bush’s Supreme Court nominee.

Murray was one of 24 Democrats who voted to block a floor vote on Alito. Seventy-two senators, including many Democrats, overrode the filibuster effort and Alito was confirmed.

“It’s not exactly the same thing as what’s happening now,” Vance said. “But I think what she did was pure partisan obstructionism.”

He noted Murray’s Democratic colleague, Sen. Maria Cantwell, voted against the 2006 filibuster.

Murray rejected the comparison, noting Alito was not denied due consideration in the Senate.

“I met with him. There was a hearing. I listened to the entire hearing. At the end of the day, he did not get my vote,” Murray said.

Asked whether she’d retaliate against Republicans by refusing to consider a court nominee if a Republican president picks one in the future, Murray said, “No, I would not.”

“I think our country would be at peril if we don’t respect our courts and give nominees of the other party, which I have done, the opportunity to be heard, have committee hearings, and then make a personal decision on whether you are a yes or not vote,” she said.