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Top GOP senator meets Obama’s Supreme Court pick to tell him there will be no vote

Merrick Garland

Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama’s choice to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, arrives on Capitol Hill for a private breakfast meeting with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa).

 

(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

The Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee sat down for breakfast with President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Tuesday as a courtesy meeting, to tell the judge there would be no confirmation hearing or vote.

Meanwhile, another breakfast message was being served up in Sen. Charles E. Grassley’s home state of Iowa, where he faces opposition for enforcing the GOP’s blockade against Judge Merrick Garland.

“Confirmation Coffee,” “Obstruction Oats” and “Garland Granola” were all on the menu at Ritual Cafe in Des Moines, a reminder of the risks Republicans face for continuing to deny Obama’s ability to fill the court vacancy.

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Despite the resistance on Capitol Hill, the White House continues to usher Garland, the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, to meet with senators. The breakfast summit with Grassley was a milestone of sorts for Obama’s efforts to fill the vacancy that has left the court split 4-4 on some issues since the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February.

But beyond the photo ops and handshakes, all but two of the Republicans who have met with the judge so far said they are merely holding courtesy sessions, with no plans to vote. Most want the next president to make the court pick.

“Had pleasant bfast w Judge Garland this morning,” Grassley wrote on Instagram, after the two broke bread in the Senators-only dining room in the Capitol. “Explained why the Senate won’t be moving fwd w his nomination. Next prez will decide after the ppl have a voice.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who met with Garland in her Capitol office later Tuesday morning, “continues to respect the Judiciary Committee’s decision not to hold hearings,” an aide said.

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And Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Penn.), who faces a potentially difficult re-election this fall, also was meeting with Garland on Tuesday.

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Republicans believe their blockade is sustainable through the November election, when they will try to retain majority control of the Senate. While the majority of voters disagree with the strategy — most Americans want the Senate to hold hearings to consider the nominee —conservative activists are on the GOP’s side.

“Grassroots activists across the country are thankful to Sen. Grassley for his steadfast and principled stand that the American people should have a voice in the selection of the next Supreme Court Justice,” said Tea Party Patriots president Jenny Beth Martin, who added that "Obama is attempting to bully the Senate” into confirming a judge who would lock in a liberal majority on the court.

The White House, though, is not letting up, and on Tuesday the administration released a letter of support from 15 past presidents of the American Bar Assn., who said “there is no election year exception” to the Senate’s duties to consider the nominee.

“The president has fulfilled his constitutional duty, and it is time for the members of the United States Senate to fulfill theirs by holding a fair hearing and timely vote,” the legal experts wrote, explaining that leaving the seat vacant “injects a degree of politics into the judicial branch that materially hampers the effective operation of our nation’s highest court.”

The split on the court has already shown both the struggle the eight justices face in avoiding deadlock, but also their willingness to push ahead — as happened when the justices tried their hand at a solution for a politically divisive case over contraceptive coverage in the Affordable Care Act.

More difficult decisions, however, await.

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On Monday, the court is scheduled to hear one of the landmark cases of the term — the challenge from Texas and other states against Obama’s immigration executive actions, which could decide whether millions of immigrants will be eligible for deportation relief.

For the latest from Congress and 2016 campaign follow @LisaMascaro

For more, go to www.latimes.com/politics

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