President Obama announced Wednesday morning that he will nominate federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.
The move is the latest development in the month-long debate over whether Obama should nominate a replacement for the late Justice Antonin Scalia in his final year in office or whether the appointment should be delayed until next year, when the next commander in chief can make the decision. Scalia, a conservative, died in his sleep during a trip to Texas last month.
Garland, the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, has almost two decades of experience serving on the bench, according to NBC News, and before that served as a lawyer. He is viewed by some as a centrist; when he won confirmation to the appeals court in D.C. nearly 20 years ago, he was supported by 30 Republicans.
Obama made the announcement during a speech from the White House Rose Garden Wednesday morning, saying that Garland “is widely recognized not only as one of America’s sharpest legal minds, but someone who brings to his work a spirit of decency, modesty, integrity, even-handedness and excellence.”
Many Senate Republicans, led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), have argued that the nomination of the next Supreme Court justice should be made by the next president. Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have pledged not to hold hearings on an Obama nominee.
While the issue has ignited criticism among Democrats, Republicans have pointed to footage of Vice President Joe Biden arguing as a senator in 1992 that President George H.W. Bush should not fill a prospective vacancy on the Supreme Court until after the election. Obama also filibustered the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito as a senator in 2006, which the White House now says he regrets.