Bernie Sanders' Merrick Garland Remarks Aren't What You'd Expect From A Democrat Running For President

While Republicans are already readying themselves to block Merrick Garland from the Supreme Court, Barack Obama's nominee to replace Antonin Scalia is facing some pushback from his own party, including one of the members running for president. On Thursday, Bernie Sanders criticized Garland's Supreme Court nomination. Speaking with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, Sanders went so far as to say that if he were elected president, he would ask to withdraw Garland's nomination.

After telling Maddow that Garland was “probably not the most progressive pick,” Maddow asked the Vermont senator if, as president, he would ask Garland's name to be withdrawn so that he could make his own Supreme Court pick. "Yes, I would, " Sanders responded without missing a beat. However, he immediately added, "I'm 100 percent prepared to support judge Garland."

While Sanders did not explicitly criticize Garland on his judicial record, he alluded to some of his concerns about the federal judge when speaking about his own criteria for a Supreme Court pick. "I do have a litmus test for a Supreme Court justice," he told Maddow. "The justice must be loud and clear in telling us that he or she will vote to overturn this disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision." Sanders has been quite vocal in his Supreme Court nominee requirements throughout the campaign.

However, it is still surprising that a politician running for the Democratic presidential nomination has openly criticized the current Democratic president's nominee, even though Sanders has also made it clear that he will support the Garland nomination. Sanders isn't alone on the left in criticizing Obama's Supreme Court pick. Slate's Mark Joseph Stern called the president's decision to nominate Garland "extremely disappointing." German Lopez at Vox wondered if the notoriously conservative Scalia had a more liberal record on criminal justice issues than Garland did.

Of course, this concern from liberals may be a non-issue if Republicans continue to proclaim they will not even consider Garland's nomination. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already told Garland (over the phone) that the Senate will not consider his nomination, and other Republicans have said they will not hold confirmation hearings. Instead, McConnell said the Senate will "revisit" the Supreme Court vacancy once a new president is elected.

With Republicans blocking his nomination and (some) leading Democrats offering lukewarm support, Garland is facing an uphill battle to the highest court in the land — and it almost certainly won't be settled any time soon.