By and large, Republicans are still committing to blocking any and all of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominees. Obama appointed D.C. Circuit judge Merrick Garland to fill the seat left vacant after Antonin Scalia’s death in February, but despite the fact that Garland is eminently qualified and ideologically centrist, Senate Republicans are refusing to even consider his nomination — at least, most of them are. A couple of Republicans do think Merrick Garland should get a Senate hearing, and they've gone on the record saying so.
As the Constitution makes clear, it’s the president’s job to appoint replacements to empty Supreme Court seats, and the Senate’s job to give hearings to the president’s nominees. But within hours of Antonin Scalia’s death, Senate Republicans made it abundantly clear that they wouldn’t fulfill their half of the bargain, even if Obama fulfilled his. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has held that line ever since, reiterating on many occasions that the Senate would not give a hearing to Garland, or anybody who Obama appoints to replace Scalia.
Most elected Republicans and conservative activists have fallen in line and supported this obstructionist position. But a few have broken ranks, and they’re getting a lot of criticism from the right for doing so.
Sen. Mark Kirk
One of the most moderate Republicans in the Senate, Mark Kirk has been pretty candid in his feelings on the Supreme Court vacancy. He said that the Senate should “go through the process the Constitution has laid out” and, more explicitly, called on his Republican colleagues to “just man up and cast a vote” on Garland.
Sen. Jerry Moran
On the other end of the spectrum, we have staunch conservative Jerry Moran. Although the Kansas senator says he’s unlikely to vote for Garland, he thinks the Senate should give him a hearing nonetheless. “I would rather have [my constituents] complaining to me that I voted wrong on nominating somebody than saying I’m not doing my job,” he said on Monday.
Former Gov. Jon Huntsman
Jon Huntsman served as governor of Utah and then the U.S. ambassador to China, and he wrote an op-ed with former Sen. Joe Lieberman calling on Senate Republicans to give Garland a hearing. “We hope the Senate can find a way to overcome its partisan divisions,” they wrote, “and bring this nominee to an up or down vote for the sake of the republic and the law of the land.”
Former George W. Bush Advisor Matthew Dowd
The chief strategist for George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign, Matthew Dowd has been harshly critical of the GOP’s refusal to give Garland a hearing. “I think that is a complete tragic mistake,” Dowd said of the Republican strategy. “[Senators] show up day in and day out, and they get a paycheck. They should do their job, and vote it up or down.”
Sen. Susan Collins
Another moderate Republican, Susan Collins also thinks the GOP should have hearings on Garland’s nomination. When asked in an interview with NPR whether or not Garland “deserve[s] a hearing and a vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee,” Collins replied bluntly that “he does.”