Judge Merrick Garland will head into next week’s confirmation vote on his nomination to be attorney general with considerable support from Republicans, despite evading key questions pertinent to conservatives’ concerns.
Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on Garland’s nomination to lead the Justice Department on Monday, where he is expected to cruise through with the support of multiple Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has repeatedly told reporters since Garland’s Tuesday testimony that he is leaning toward voting to confirm, though he has stressed that he doesn’t “want to make a final decision.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the No. 2 Republican on the committee, said Tuesday he was “very inclined” to back Garland’s confirmation given his “very deep understanding of the threats America faces.”
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tx.), a member of GOP leadership who serves on the panel, has backed Garland since he was tapped by President Biden for the post.
In a statement at the time, Cornyn argued that “Garland’s extensive legal experience makes him well-suited to lead the Department of Justice, and I appreciated his commitment to keep politics out of the Justice Department.”
Cornyn, an ally of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, called keeping the department de-politicized his “number one criterion” in deciding who should have the job.
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), who also sits on the powerful panel, said in a statement Tuesday that he would join his fellow GOP committee members in backing Biden’s AG pick.
“His experience reflects his wide-based legal knowledge and his unbiased application of the law, with a longstanding reputation of bipartisanship, which is why he has earned the respect from both Democrats and Republicans,” the North Carolina senator said.
Even Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.), who does not appear likely to support Garland’s nomination, appeared to acknowledge it was a done deal Tuesday.
“[His confirmation] certainly seems likely. I thought he did fine,” Cruz told reporters Tuesday, “It was frustrating in that he answered very few questions. He approached it more like a judicial nominee dodging every question.”
Judiciary Democrats are also expressing confidence in Garland’s chances of becoming AG.
“Judge Garland is about as sure a bet as you can have in the Congress these days that he will be confirmed,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said, “He has navigated these questions with extraordinary adroitness and aplomb.”
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who also serves as Judiciary Committee chairman, said he is hoping for a full confirmation vote later in the week.
Once the DC circuit judge is approved by the panel, he will be able to count on the support of a growing number of Senate Republicans.
McConnell (R-Ky.) responded affirmatively when asked Tuesday how he planned to vote on Garland’s nomination, but has not offered an official statement as of early Wednesday morning.
“I do,” he said, declining to elaborate further.
Garland was nominated by then-President Obama to fill the Supreme Court vacancy in the wake of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in March 2016. At the time, Republicans controlled the Senate while Obama, a Democrat, had the White House.
Then-Senate Majority Leader McConnell would not allow Garland’s nomination to be brought to a vote in the Senate at the time.
During his confirmation hearings this week, Garland said that handling the investigation into last month’s siege on the Capitol would be his first order of business, telling numerous senators who asked that it was his top priority.
Garland was asked during questioning from Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) whether he regarded violence spawned by Antifa or at Black Lives Matter demonstrations in Portland, Ore., and Seattle, Wash., as domestic terrorism.
He claimed it was not.
“An attack on a courthouse while in operation, trying to prevent judges from actually deciding cases, that plainly is domestic extremism, domestic terrorism,” Garland said.
“An attack simply on a government property at night or any other kind of circumstances is a clear crime and a serious one.”
Garland was also asked by Hawley if he believed “illegal entry at America’s border should remain a crime,” to which he responded that he was not sure.
“I think the president has made clear that we are a country with borders and with a concern about national security. I don’t know of a proposal to decriminalize but still make it unlawful to enter. I just don’t know the answer to that question. I hadn’t thought about it.”
Asked by Grassley about investigations into Hunter Biden’s business dealings, Garland said he had not discussed the matter with the commander in chief.
“The president made abundantly clear in every public statement … that decisions about investigation and prosecutions will be left to the Justice Department,” he replied.