Clinton Says She May Not Choose Garland for Supreme Court

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U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Merrick Garland waits for a meeting with Senator Brian Schatz on Capitol Hill on May 10, 2016, in Washington.

Photographer: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
  • Democrat would ‘look broadly’ for diverse nominees, she says
  • She won’t preclude lame-duck confirmation, deferring to Obama

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said she wouldn’t be bound by President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, hinting that she would consider a bolder choice if she takes office in January with the seat still unfilled.

Clinton would "look broadly and widely for people who represent the diversity of our country" if she has the opportunity to make "any" Supreme Court nominations, she said in a radio interview that aired Thursday on the Tom Joyner Morning Show.

The comments are Clinton’s most specific yet on how she would handle the 7-month-old vacancy. Her remarks offer hope to progressives who say the Supreme Court nomination should go to a younger, more liberal jurist and possibly to a racial minority or woman. Garland turns 64 in November, is white and is widely considered an ideological moderate.

Clinton said she wouldn’t ask Obama to withdraw Garland’s nomination after Election Day, leaving open the possibility he could be confirmed with her implicit blessing in a congressional lame-duck session.

"I think we should stick with one president at a time," Clinton said. "I’m going to let this president serve out his term with distinction and make the decisions that he thinks are right for the country."

Raising Stakes

While Clinton didn’t specifically rule out the possibility of re-nominating Garland, her stance raises the stakes for Republicans in the Supreme Court fight. Senate Republicans have refused to consider the Garland nomination during Obama’s presidency, saying they won’t even take it up during a lame-duck session. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said this week that the seat "will not be filled this year."

Should they maintain their opposition in the face of a Clinton victory over Donald Trump, Republicans could find themselves with a nominee they consider even more objectionable than Garland.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest pointed to Clinton’s past statements of support for Garland and her calls for the Senate to act. When Obama selected Garland, "she said the president made a good choice," Earnest told reporters on Thursday.

As for what Clinton might do if the nomination languishes until January, Earnest said: "If Senate Republicans are willing to do their job, it’s not going to come to that."

Republican ‘Disgrace’

In the radio interview, Clinton repeated past criticism of the Republicans’ strategy, calling it a "disgrace." The court vacancy, created by Justice Antonin Scalia’s Feb. 13 death, is the longest since 1970.

Clinton said she would look for prospective nominees who "bring some common-sense, real-world experience." A Clinton campaign spokesman didn’t immediately return a message seeking further comment.

Progressive activists have pushed Clinton to nominate someone with a more liberal record than Garland. During the Democratic primary, rival Bernie Sanders channeled their concerns by saying in a March interview with MSNBC that if he were elected, he’d ask Obama to withdraw the Garland nomination. Sanders said he would look at "more progressive judges" for the position.

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