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Opinion

Opinion: McConnell: Merrick Garland’s record is irrelevant -- but I’ll trash him anyway

Sen. Mitch McConnell

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell talks to reporters Tuesday after a meeting with Republican leaders.

(Chip Somodevilla / AFP/Getty Images)

The official line of the Senate Republican leadership is that Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, isn’t entitled to a hearing or a confirmation vote not because of his qualifications (or lack of them) but because there is a presidential election this year.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) put it this way: “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”

As the Los Angeles Times editorial board has pointed out, this is self-serving sophistry. The American people do have a voice in any nomination Obama makes. They “spoke” when they elected him to a second term that doesn’t expire until next January.

Suppose McConnell really believed what he said. It would follow that he would have to remain silent about the qualifications or judicial record of anyone Obama nominated. But in fact  McConnell is assailing Garland’s qualifications.

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“Barack Obama calling this judge a moderate doesn’t make him a moderate,” McConnell said on “Fox News Sunday.” He went on to suggest that the Senate would refuse to confirm Garland because of objections to the nominee’s view of the 2nd Amendment.

“I can’t imagine that a Republican majority in the United States Senate would want to confirm in a  lame-duck session a nominee opposed by the National Rifle Assn.” (McConnell also cited the opposition of the National Federation of Independent Business.)

Indeed, the NRA has opposed Garland’s confirmation.  Chris Cox, the executive director of the group’s Institute for Legislative Action, released a statement saying that “a basic analysis of Merrick Garland’s judicial record shows that he does not respect our fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms for self-defense.”

Garland’s defenders argue that that is a grossly unfair characterization of his votes in two cases dealing with gun regulation. But what does Garland say?

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The obvious way to find out would be to invite the judge to testify publicly before the Senate Judiciary Committee,  a courtesy extended to all recent nominees to the court. But McConnell and committee chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) refuse to hold any hearings.

So McConnell wants to have it both ways: denying Garland a hearing on the grounds that his record is irrelevant, even as he trashes that record without giving Garland a meaningful  opportunity to respond.

That’s not just illogical; it’s unjust.

Follow Michael McGough on Twitter @MichaelMcGough3.

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