tv The Place for Politics 2016 MSNBC March 16, 2016 8:00am-9:01am PDT
nominee, you would reach out for merrick garland. and in that sense, if you just say, who has the objective qualifications, who would republicans have the hardest time saying no to, it's definitely merrick garland. but the thing is that he is the exact opposite of what you would expect if you were saying that the president was trying to motivate democrats to rally behind or trying to help a democrat in the presidential election. because he's a 63-year-old white guy. he is a deeply respected, probably the most deeply respected democratic appointee on the bench. in some ways, some narrow ways, he's slightly more conservative than justice scalia, particularly on criminal law issues. it's not surprising to hear people say that democratic groups are a little bit disappointed about the lost opportunity. i think i have a little bit of a different take than a lot of people about this. i think only barack obama would ever have made this nomination. he's a former constitutional law professor. i think he takes this nomination deeply personally. and there's an incredible
disconnect between his take on what he should be doing as the president and all of the political advisers in the world. i think what he's saying with this is, i'm going to go out and pick the most apolitical, most qualified person i could find. i don't care how old they are. this person is 14 years older than srinivasan. i don't care if it's going to motivate the democratic base. i know the person, i'm not particularly concerned about whether this could get better coverage. i'm just picking the most qualified person i can dpientd. >> probably didn't hurt he's. a fellow chicagoan. isn't it true, tom, that the more life you've lived, the more jobs you've had, the more decisions you've handed down, especially if you're a judge, sometimes presidents pick politicians as supreme court justices. california governor earl warren as chief justice comes to mind. in this atmosphere, everything you've uttered or written is potentially held against you? >> there's no question that it
is, in one sense, dangerous to pick somebody who has been a federal judge for almost 20 years because you can pick apart his record. i think the truth, though, is that after orrin ach ahatch andt of conservative activists say mar merrick garland is the best they could ever hope for, it's hard to do anything other than stand on the principle that they're just not going to confirm anybody. the upside of having somebody who has been a judge for that long is, look, the law is very complicated, particularly cases that get to the supreme court. the law is frequently ambiguous, the constitution is ambiguous. a lot of wisdom comes from that experience. i don't think anybody should be worried about a merrick garland on the supreme court, so long as you don't want the court to be incredibly conservative or incredibly liberal. he's as down the middle as you can get. >> we have just sieen an aide come out and place the president's notebooks with his remarks on the podium. we're told we're within two minutes of the president and judge garland appearing. let's stay with the picture and
go quickly across town to luke russert while we watch this. luke, we've got the key democrats in the senate, who are going to be guiding this sitting in the first couple rows. you've got the rest of the lawmakers who could make or break this up on capitol hill, any early word? >> well, what you just heard from tom, brian, i think is very accurate. it's that republicans are going to say look, it's not about the person. it's about the principle. and roy blunt, senator from missouri, he said a few weeks ago, look, if they nominated my own daughter, i would vote against her at this time. lindsey graham, republican from south carolina, said on "meet the press," if the president nominated me, i would vote against myself. that's how far they're going to go on this. i think there is some surprise on capitol hill that the president went in this direction with garland, because as you mentioned, there were other potential nomineed who all been voted through here unanimously. we looked at the vote in 1997 when garland was passed in the senate. some of the republicans who are
still here who voted against him, mitch mcconnell, chuck grassley, jeff sessions. it takes away a talking point that the white house said, oh, you voted for them in the past. however, when i went back and looked at the video of chuck grassley, the senate judiciary chairman, he said of garland in 1997, i find no fault with the nominee the president has put forward. grassley voted against garland because he did not want the d.c. court of appeals to expand or stay at 11 members. he thought it was a waste of taxpayer money. that's what democrats will hone in on, saying grassley had no problem with him in the past. same from orrin hatch. now, in terms of procedure -- >> i'm going to cut you off. >> there you go. >> the president and judge garland are coming out to the microphones. accompanied by the vice president. >> good morning. everybody please have a seat. of the many powers and responsibilities that the constitution vests in the presidency, few are more
consequential than appointing a supreme court justice. particularly one to succeed justice scalia, one of the most influential jurists of our time. the men and women who sit on the supreme court are the final arbiters of american law. they safeguard our rights. they insure that our system is one of laws and not men. they're charged with the essential task of applying principles put to paper more than two centuries ago, to some of the most challenging questions of our time. so this is not a responsibility that i take lightly. it's a decision that requires me to set aside short time expediency and narrow politics so as to maintain faith with our founders and perhaps more importantly with future generations. that's why over the past several weeks i have done my best to set
up a rigorous and comprehensive process. i have sought the advice of republicans and democratic members of congress. we have reached out to every member of the senate judiciary committee. to constitutional scholars, to advocacy groups, to bar associations representing an array of interests and opinions from all across the spectrum. and today, after completing this exhaustive process, i have made my decision. i have selected a nominee who 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. these qualities and his long commitment to public service have earned him the respect and admiration of leaders from both sides of the aisle. he will ultimately bring that
same character to bear on the supreme court. an institution in which he is uniquely prepared to serve immediately. today, i am nominating chief judge marerrick brian garland t join the supreme court. now, in law enforcement circles and in the legal community at large, judge garland needs no introduction, but i would like to take a minute to introduce merrick to the american people whom he already so ably serves. he was born and raised in the land of lincoln. in my home town of chicago, in my home state of illinois. his mother volunteered in the community. his father ran a small business
out of their home. inheriting that work eth, he became valedictorian of his public high school. he earned a scholarship to harvard where he graduated summa cum laude, and he put himself through harvard law school by working as a tutor, by stocking shoes in a shoe store, and in what is always a painful moment for any young man, by selling his comic book collection. tough. been there. merrick graduated magna cum laude from harvard law, and the early years of his legal career bear all the traditional marks of excellence. he clerked for two of president eisenhower's judicial appointees. first for a legendary judge on the second circuit, judge henry friendly, and then for supreme court justice william brennan. following his clerkships, merrick joined a highly regarded law firm where the practice
focused on litigation and disadvantaged americans. within four years, he earned a partnership. the dream of most lawyers. but in 1989, just months after that achievement, merrick made a highly unusual career decision. he walked away from a comfortable and lucrative law practice to return to public service. merrick accepted a low-level job as a federal prosecutor in president george h.w. bush's administration. took a 50% pay cut, traded in his elegant partners office for a windowless closet that smells of stale cigarette smoke. this was a time when crime here in washington had reached epidemic proportions and he wanted to help. and he quickly made a name for himself going after corrupt politicians and violent criminals. his sterling record as a prosecutor led him to the justice department. where he oversaw some of the
most significant prosecutions in the 1990s. including overseeing every aspect of the federal response to the oklahoma city bombing. in the aftermath of that act of terror, when 168 people, many of them small children, were murdered, merrick had one evening to say good-bye to his own young daughters before he boarded a plane to oklahoma city. and he would remain there for weeks. he worked side by side with first responders, rescue workers, local and federal law enforcement. he led the investigation and supervised the prosecution that brought timothy mcveigh to justice. but perhaps most important is the way he did it. throughout the process, merrick took pains to do everything by the book. when people offered to turn over evidence voluntarily, he refused. taking the harder route of
obtaining the proper subpoenas instead, because merrick would take no chances that someone who murdered innocent americans might go free on a technicality. merrick also made a concerted effort to reach out to the victims and their families. updating them frequently on the case's progress. everywhere he went, he carried with him in his briefcase the program from the memorial service with each of the victims' names inside. a constant searing reminder of why he had to succeed. judge garland has often referred to his work on the oklahoma city case as, and i quote, the most important thing i have ever done in my life. and through it all, he never lost touch with that community that he served. it's no surprise then that soon after his work in oklahoma city,
merrick was nominated to what's often called the second highest court in the land. the d.c. circuit court. during that process, during that confirmation process, he earned overwhelming bipartisan praise from senators and legal experts alike. republican senator orrin hatch, who was then chairman of the senate judiciary committee supported his nomination. back then, he said in all honesty, i would like to see one person come to this floor and say one reason why merrick garland does not deserve this position. he actually accused fellow senate republicans trying to obstruct merrick's confirmation of playing politics with judges. and he has since said that judge garland would be a consensus nominee for the supreme court, who would be very well supported by all sides and there would be no question merrick would be confirmed with bipartisan
support. ultimately, merrick was confirmed to the d.c. circuit. the second highest court in the land. with votes from a majority of democrats and a majority of republicans. three years ago, he was elevated to chief judge. and in his 19 years on the d.c. circuit, judge garland has brought his trademark diligence, compassion, and unwavering regard for the rule of law to his work. circuit court known for strong minded judges on both ends of the spectrum, judge garland has earned a track record of building consensus as a thoughtful, fair-minded judge who follows the law. he's shown a rare ability to bring together odd couples. assemble unlikely coalitions. persuade colleagues with wide ranging judicial philosophies to sign on to his opinions.
and this record on the bench speaks, i believe, to judge garland's temperame temperament, his insistence that all views deserve a respectful hearing. his habit, to borrow a phrase from john paul stevens, of understanding before disagreeing. and then disagreeing without being disagreeable. it speaks to his ability to persuade, to response to the concerns of others with sound arguments and air tight logic. as his former colleague on the d.c. circuit and our current chief justice of the supreme court, john roberts, once said, any time judge garland disagrees, you know you're in a difficult area. at the same time, chief judge garland is more than just a brilliant legal mind. he's someone who has a keen understanding that justice is about more than abstract legal theory. more than some footnote in a
dusty case book. his life experience u his experience in places like oklahoma city, informs his view that the law is more than an intellectual exercise. he understands the way law affects the daily reality of people's lives in a big complicated democracy, and in rapidly changing times. and throughout his jurisprudence runs a common thread. a dedication to protecting the basic rights of every american. a conviction that in a democracy powerful voices must not be allowed to drown out the voices of everyday americans. to find someone with such a long career of public service marked by complex and sensitive issues, to find someone who just about everyone not only respects but genuinely likes, that is rare. and it speaks to who merrick
garland is, not just as a lawyer but as a man. people respect the way he treats others. his genuine courtesy and respect for his colleagues, and those who come before his court. they admire his civic mindedness, mentoring his clerks throughout their careers, urblging them to use their legal training to serve their communities, setting his own example by tutoring a young student at a northeast d.c. elementary school each year for the past 18 years. they're moved by his deep devotion to his family. lynn, his wife of nearly 30 years, and their two daughters, becky and jesse. as a family, they indulge their love of hiking and skiing and canoeing and their love of america by visiting our national parks. people respect merrick's deep and abiding passion for protecting our most basic constitutional rights.
it's a passion i'm told that manifested itself as an early age. and one story is indicative of this, notable. as valedictorian of his high school class, he had to deliver a commencement address. the other student speaker that day spoke first and unleashed a fiery critique of the vietnam war. fearing the controversy that might result, several parents decided to unplug the sound system. and the rest of the student's speech was muffled. and merrick didn't necessarily agree with the tone of his classmate's remarks, nor his choice of topic for thatidate, but stirred by the sight of a student's silence, he delivered on the spot a passionate, inpromptu defense of our first amendment rights. it was the beginning of a lifelong career as a lawyer and a prosecutor and as a judge
devoted to protecting the rights of others. and he has done that work with decency and humanity and common sense, and a common touch. and i'm proud that he'll continue that work on our nation's highest court. i said i would take this process seriously, and i did. i chose a serious man and an exemplary judge, merrick garland. over my seven years as president, in all my conversations with senators from both parties, in which i asked their views on qualified supreme court nominees, this includes the previous two seats that i had to fill, the one name that has come up repeatedly from republicans and democrats alike is merrick garland. now, i recognize that we have
entered the political season, or perhaps these days it never ends. a political season that is even noisier and more volatile than usual. i know that republicans will point to democrats who have made it hard for republican presidents to get their nominees confirmed. and they're not wrong about that. there's been politics involved in nominations in the past, although it should be pointed out that in each of those instances, democrats ultimately confirmed a nominee, put forward by a republican president. i also know that because of justice scalia's outsized role on the court and in american law, and the fact that americans are closely divided on a number of issues before the court, it is tempting to make this confirmation process simply an
extension of our divided politics. the squabbling that's going on in the news every day. but to go down that path would be wrong. it would be a betrayal of our best traditions. and a betrayal of the vision of our founding documents. at a time when our politics are so polarized, at a time when norms and customs of political rhetoric and courtesy and comedy are so often treated like they're disposable, this is precisely the time when we should play it straight. and treat the process of appointing a supreme court justice with the seriousness and care it deserves. because our supreme court really is unique. it's supposed to be above politics. it has to be. and it should stay that way.
to suggest that someone is qualified and respected as merrick garland doesn't even deserve a hearing, let alone an up or down vote, to join an institution as important as our supreme court, when two thirds of americans believe otherwise, that would be unprecedented. to suggest that someone who has served his country with honor and dignity, with a distinguished track record of delivering justice for the american people, might be treated as one republican leader stated, as a political pinata, that can't be right. tomorrow, judge garland will travel to the hill to begin meeting with senators one-on-one. i simply ask republicans in the senate to give him a fair hearing. and then an up or down vote.
if you don't, then it will not only be an abductiication of th senate's constitutional duty. it will indicate a process for nominating and confirming judges that is beyond repair. it will mean everything is subject to the most partisan of politics, everything. it will provoke an endless cycle of more tit for tat and make it increasingly impossible for any president, democrat or republican, to carry out their constitutional function. the reputation of the supreme court will inevitably suffer. faith in our justice system will inevitably suffer. our democracy will ultimately suffer as well.
i have fulfilled my constitutional duty. now it's time for the senate to do theirs. presidents do not stop working in the final year of their term. neither should a senator. i know that tomorrow the senate will take a break and leave town on recess for two weeks. my earnest hope is that senators take that time to reflect on the importance of this process to our democracy. not what's expedient, not what's happening at the moment, what does this mean for our institutions? for our common life? the stakes, the consequences, the seriousness of the job we all swore an oath to do. and when they return, i hope that they'll act in a bipartisan fashion. i hope they're fair. that's all.
i hope they are fair. as they did when they confirmed merrick garland to the d.c. circuit, i ask that they confirm merrick garland now to the supreme court. so that he can take his seat in time to fully participate in its work for the american people this fall. he is the right man for the job. he deserves to be confirmed. i could not be prouder of the work that he has already done on behalf of the american people. he deserves our thanks. and he deserves a fair hearing. with that, i would like to invite judge garland to say a few words.
>> thank you, mr. president. this is the greatest honor of my life. other than lynn agreeing to marry me 28 years ago. it's also the greatest gift i have ever received except, and there's another caveat, the birth of our daughters, jesse and becky. as my parents taught me, by both words and deeds, a life of public service is as much a gift to the person who serves as it is to those he is serving. and for me, there could be no higher public service than serving as a member of the united states supreme court. my family deserves much of the credit for the path that led me here. my grandparents left the settlement at the border of
western russia and eastern europe in the early 1900s, fleeing anti-semitism and hoping to make a better life for their children in america. they settled in the midwest, eventually making their way to chicago. there, my father who ran the smallest of small businesses from a room in our basement took me with him as he made the rounds to his customers, always impressing upon me the importance of hard work and fair dealing. there, my mother headed the local pta and school board and directed a volunteer services agency, all the while instilling in my sisters and me the understanding that service to the community is a responsibility above all others. even now, my sisters honor that example by serving the children of their communities. i know that my mother is
watching this on television and crying her eyes out. so are my sisters, who have supported me in every step i have ever taken. i only wish that my father were here to see this today. i also wish that we hadn't taught my older daughter to be so adventurous that she would be hiking in the mountains out of cell service range. when the president called. it was the sense of responsibility to serve the community instilled by my parents that led me to leave my law firm to become a line prosecutor in 1989. there, one of my first assignments was to assist in the prosecution of a violent gang that had come down to the district from new york, took over a public housing project, and terrorized the residents. the hardest job we faced was persuading mothers and grandmothers that if they
testified, we would be able to keep them safe. and convict the gang members. we succeeded only by convincing witnesses and victims that they could trust that the rule of law would prevail. years later when i went to oklahoma city to investigate the bombing of the federal building, i saw up close the devastation that can happen when someone abandons the justice system. as a way of resolving grievances, and instead takes matters into his own hands. once again, i saw the importance of assuring victims and families that the justice system could work. we promised that we would find the perpetrators, that we would bring them to justice, and that we would do it in a way that honored the constitution. the people of oklahoma city gave us their trust, and we did everything we could to live up to it.
trust that justice will be done in our courts without prejudice or partisanship is what in a large participate distinguishes this country from others. people must be confident that a judge's decisions are determined by the law and only the law. for a judge to be worthy of such trust, he or she must be faithful to the constitution and to the statutes passed by the congress. he or she must put aside his personal views or preferences and follow the law, not make it. fidelity to the constitution and the law has been the cornerstone of my professional life. and it is the hallmark of the kind of judge i have tried to be for the past 18 years. if the senate sees fit to confirm me to the position for which i have been nominated today, i promise to continue on
that course. mr. president, it's a great privilege to be nominated by a fellow chicagoan. i am grateful beyond words for the honor you have bestowed upon me. >> a modest and emotional federal judge, merrick garland, as you heard, a chicagoan, like the president. as tom leahy and harry reid talk to his wife and one of his two daughters. the other, as you heard, is hiking outside of cell service in the mountains. and presumably does not know that her father has been nominated for a position on the highest court in the land. if this does not work out to be perfectly honest, he remains a
federal judge with lifetime appointment. tom goldstein of the scotusblog, who has argued 38 cases before the supreme court, watching and listening with us. tom, there was a thought that the president was going to nominate an iowan. a federal judge that would make it very tough for senator grassley to say no to letting a senator go through, especially from his home state. that was viewed among other things as too cute by half. is the president going into this, i guess i need a reading on real politic. is the president really prepared that merrick garland will never see the supreme court? >> i think he is. i think shockingly, i listened to a politician in washington, d.c. say something today, and i actually believed it, which is he really meant that the process should be less political. i think the proof is in the
pudding. he picked, you know, a centrist a nominee as he could. he picked somebody who is 63 when we're used to having nominees who are 50 and will serve for 25 or 30 years. he picked somebody who has been endorsed by a lot of republicans for the past 20 years. he didn't try to score any political points by nominating a woman, hispanic, african-american, asian-american. he just went for the guy who seemed to be the very, very most qualified. and so he just put it out there and said, i've done my job. you do yours. he doesn't seem to be putting any kinds of political pressure on senate republicans beyond qualifications. >> so you don't see the start of one of those incredible grassroots campaigns where the obama white house says in our remaining months, we're going to make this debate about something, about the consequences of elections, where they go all out to get this
passed? >> i assume that the white house political office now has handed this nomination and said do the very best you can. i do think they will try quite hard. i do think they will rely on progressive groups. and the progressive groups, i think, because this is a democratic nomination, they respect barack obama and merrick garland a lot, will kind of fall in line. but they're not going to have nearly the energy they would if it had been someone who would create greater diversity on the supreme court, someone who is a recognized progressive, where as chief judge garland is regarded as a centrist. now it becomes a political football, but the president didn't hand it to them in that way. >> you have written that the other justice that many of us, the other judge that many of us were expecting to hear from today, sri srinivasan, at age 49, is about as moderate a judge as a democratic president could be expected to put up for the
supreme court. it will be said that by putting garland up for this vacancy, that the president in quotes, saves the 49-year-old sri srinivasan for later being named to the court. if there is a democratic president after this long election campaign, would they not go for a more predictably slam dunk liberal on the court? >> well, it would depend, i assume, a lot on the senate. if a democrat is not only wins the presidency later this year but also turn the senate to their majority, then i think they would go for someone who is substantially more liberal than merrick garland. i think a democratic president, because he would by then be 64, would probably seriously consider not renominating merrick garland. it would depend a lot on the different circumstances, the layout of the senate, what the electoral map looks like in general. so this is president obama's nomination to the supreme court.
and i wouldn't make any predictions about what happens after senate republicans stick to their line, and i'm sure they will, that they're not going to he hold hearings or a vote. >> your friend and our justice correspondent pete williams has rejoined us after covering the event in the rose garden. americans who are not, shall we say, as hard bitten and cynical as the people who run washington, d.c., are going to look at this ceremony, this modest, emotional man with his family in the front row, talking about his family history, talking about his reverence for the law, the court, and the american people, and say they would have every reason to say incredulously, you mean this may never come to pass? and this nomination may be designed in part to set up to fail? >> well, i think that's certainly what the white house is hoping people will think,
that somebody like merrick garland should have a fair shot at being on the supreme court. and i think that it's partly the fact that we're in this political environment, but also a lot of the fact that it's the nominee to succeed antonin scalia. and a republican nom -- a democratic nominee to fill that seat is going to change the idealogical makeup of the court, and that's, i think, the main reason why you're seeing this political potential stalemate here. if it were one of the more liberal members of the court and a democratic president was filling that vacancy, there might still be some pushback about doing it in an election year, but it seems unlikely there would be as much. tom goldstein knows merrick garland well. i don't know him quite as well, but i have known him over the years since i cover the justice department back when janet reno was attorney general and kept in touch with him over the years. my sense of watching him and the reason he was so emotional is probably he's been through this
twice before. twice before he was down to the white house, got interviewed by the president, and then at the last minute, he found out it wasn't going to be him. it would be emotional for anybody to be standing there with all their friends and supporters in the white house rose garden and you know, lightning really strikes, they really did get nominate today the supreme court, but i suspect for him, because he's been through this twice before, it was an extra emotional time for him. at least that's the sense i had of watching him and knowing him somewhat. >> tom goldstein, same question? >> yeah, i definitely agree with pete. i think that you saw the authentic merrick garland there. i think he was probably a little shocked. he had been, you know, told by everyone probably that was talking to him about it he was going to be too old. he had been passed over a couple times. and you know, in washington, there is a felt sense i think today that, gosh, you know, the most qualified person did get nominated. it's kind of surprising that this isn't being used for more
overtpolitical purposes. >> isn't that remarkable? tom, while i have you, as a young man and a freshly minted lawyer, he clerked on the supreme court for not just any justice, but justice william brennan. among the liberal lions of the last 100 years. a man who made no bones about the mathmatics and lobbying on the supreme court, often would hold up his hand showing five fingers and saying around here, there's only one way to get things done. and that is a 5-4 vote of the supreme court. how much of that rubs off on a young lawyer? he certainly didn't grow up to be the liberal on the federal bench that brennan was. you find his decisions in your ongoing years-long analysis to be slightly left of center. >> yeah, i don't think very much. judge garland, chief judge
garland certainly absorbed from all different kinds of mentors. he really did take to heart his experience with the very liberal william brennan, but in the wake of that, you just don't see anything like justice brennan's very liberal ideology in basically anything he's done. when you have a judge who almost never votes to overturn criminal convictions as chief judge garland's history has been, when he regularly disagrees with more liberal colleagues in those cases, you know you're not talking about someone who is going to be an intellectual leader of the supreme court's left. you're talking about somebody who is going to be the rock solid center if he can get onto the court. >> let's bring in two more of our friends, kelly o'donnell and andrea mitchell. kelly, you have watched these things for a lot of years in washington. i just was asking the same question, it's hard for people to watch this and then be hold that this in part could be designed to go down in flames, a
kind of sacrificial nomination. but the republicans don't seem to be moving on their threat not to confirm. >> brian, i think in many ways, they will be impervious to public pressure. i happen to be at an event for john kasich, that's why you hear journey playing in the background. i have heard them make a repeated point which suggests that senate republicans are on the same page. it is not about the individual. not about the qualifications of merrick garland. it's about a process, and they have made a decision in anticipation of a pick just like this, that they would hold together. even some of those senators who are up for re-election in what will be very difficult contests where their democratic opponents will certainly make this an issue. when judge garland goes to capitol hill, he will be warmly greeted by all of the democrats who want to have those personal face-to-face conversations with
him, but don't expect republicans to break. especially at this early point. there's no indication that they will give way on this at all. their argument is they believe the american people through the november election should be able to decide on which way the court should go. not withstanding the fact there are many months left in the president's term and it is the president's constitutional obligation to put forth a name, as he has done today. they say it is not a requirement that the senate consider the nomination through hearings or a vote. now, that will probably make many people watching puzzled or even angry or confused by it, but if they even begin the process, it makes it harder and harder to not consider it in terms of who merrick garland is. someone who has had the respect and admiration of a number of republicans over time. there are a handful of republicans still in the senate who voted for him and confirmed him in the past, including john mccain, who is up for a tough
re-election fight in arizona. james inhofe of oklahoma, who is not up for re-election, but when you talk about the history merrick garland has with the oklahoma city bombing, jim inhofe knows that history very well. there are person connections that will weigh on some of these republicans, and outside pressure may be there, but also remember that the outside pressure from conservative groups will be loud, fierce, and unyielding, telling republicans in the senate, you have control of this process. block this nominee. democrats will have a talking point and a strong case to make throughout the election year. and they will do that. but today may be the best moment of judge garland's sort of professional life in the rose garden. he may never get a chance to be voted on for the highest court in the land. brian. >> kelly o'donnell, thanks. let's go over to andrea mitchell. to quote the journey song playing in the background while kelly was speaking, don't stop believing. that is what the dreamers and the true believers on this team
will be saying. under the surface, won't some democrats be saying to the republicans, if we succeed, if we get a democratic president, you'll be longing for the days when merrick garland was our pick for the court because he is such a moderate. now we're going to put up a liberal, say. >> i think the best argument is that some of those republicans may be facing, the political arguments might be just think of what president trump or president cruz would nominate, whom they would nominate. we're going to take a break, i think. mitch mcconnell has taken the floor, but we'll complete that thought on the other side. >> republicans in the senate, mitch mcconnell. >> so of course, of course, the american people should have a say in the court's direction. it is a president's constitutional right to nominate a supreme court justice, and it
is the senate mfs constitutional right to act as a check on a president and withhold its consent. as chairman grassley and i declared weeks ago, and reiterated personally to president obama, the senate will continue to observe the biden rule. so that the american people have a voice in this momentous decision. the american people may well elect a president who decides to nominate judge garland. for senate consideration. the next president may also nominate somebody very different. either way, our view is this. give the people a voice in filling this vacancy. let me remind colleagues of what vice president biden said when he was chairman of the judiciary committee here in the senate. here's what he said. it would be our pragmatic conclusion that once the
political season is under way, and it is, action on a supreme court nomination must be put off until after the election campaign is over. that is what is fair to the nominee, he said, and is central to the process. otherwise, it seems to me, chairman biden went on, we will be in deep trouble as an institution. others may fret, he said, that this approach would leave the court with only eight members for some time. but as i see it, chairman biden said, the cost of such a result, the need to reargue three or four cases that will divide the justices 4-4, are quite minor. compared to the cost that a nomin nominee, the president, the senate, and the nation would have to pay for what would assuredly be a bitter fight no matter how good a person is
nominated by the president. chairman joe biden. consider that last part. senator biden said that the cost to the nation would be too great, no matter who the president nominates. president obama and his allies may now try to pretend this disagreement is about a person. but as i just noted, his own vice president made it clear it's not. the biden rule reminds us that the decision the senate announced weeks ago remains about a principle and not a person. about a principle, and not a person. it seems clear that president obama made this nomination not, not with the intent of seeing the nominee confirmed, but in order to politicize it for purposes of the election.
which is the type of thing then-senate judiciary committee chairman biden was concerned about. the exact thing chairman biden was concerned about. the biden rule underlines that what the president has done with this nomination would be unfair to any nominee and more importantly the rule warrants of the great cost the president's action could carry for our nation. americans are certain to hear a lot of rhetoric from the other side in the coming days. but here are the facts they should keep in mind. the current democratic leader said the senate is not a rubber stamp, and he noted that the constitution does not require the senate to give presidential nominees a vote. that's the current democratic leader. the incoming democratic leader did not even wait until the final year of george w. bush's
term to essentially tell the senate not, he said, not to consider any supreme court nominee the president sent. the biden rule supports what the senate is doing today. underlining that what we're talking about is a principle and not a person. so here's our view. instead of spending more time debating an issue where we can't agree, let's keep working to address the issues where we can. we just passed critical bipartisan legislation to help address the heroin and prescription opioid crisis in our country. let's build on that success. let's keep working together to get our economy moving again. and make our country safer. rather than endlessly debating an issue where we don't agree. as we continue working on issues like these, the american people
are perfectly capable of having their say, their say, on this issue. so let's give them a voice. let's let the american people decide. the senate will appropriately revisit the matter when it considers the qualifications of the nominee the next president nominates. whoever that might be. >> senator mitch mcconnell from kentucky. back to andrea mitchell. you were saying? >> i was saying that first of all, senators on the republican side are going to have to think about what would a president hillary clinton do and whom would she nominate. who would donald trump nominate among those senators who are not supporting donald trump, and others who are very concerned about a ted cruz presidency.
if he becomes the nominee and were to win the election. the other thing is that the white house is mobilizing. now, it may be fruitless, as kelly o'donnell was certainly w hillary clinton do and whom should she nominate. who would donald trump nominate among those senators who are not supporting donald trump and others who are very concerned about a ted cruz presidency, if he becomes the nominee and were to win the election. the other thing is that the white house is mobilizing. it may be fruitless as kelly o'donnell is certainly reporting, but they're thinking at any rate they could get a lame duck session. a lame duck session after november or even a lame duck session after -- if they are fortunate enough to elect a democrat president. so there are a couple of options sort of hail mary passes, if you will, that they are thinking about. the fact is that they think they have chosen the one nominee who
cannot be described as tom gold steen was saying as being politically chosen because he is a white man, despite the objections in the last couple weeks of african-american womens groups and other groups, progressive democratic groups who wanted to see a minority and wanted to see something -- some different kind of nominee. on the other hand, merrick garland has been supported and was voted on by seven sitting republican snartds the last time he was confirmed. the life story of his engagement in public service and with oklahoma city in particular as a prosecutor, the president and the white house obviously feels is very, very appeals. the emotions you saw, the humble background even though he is another harvard lawyer going on the court. and it certainly does not increase the diversity ethnically or religiously on the court which is so dominated now by catholics and jews.
>> or educationally for that matter, as you mentioned. >> exactly. >> andrea, thanks. let's go to the man referred to as our own in-house justice and that's pete williams on something we just heard from mitch mcconnell. pete, his use over and over again of the biden rule. is this a thing, have generations of school children been taught that along with louisiana purchase? >> the biden rule lunchbox availability? >> yeah. >> not that i know of. but the interesting thing about the so-called biden rule is it goes back to the speech that vice president biden made at the time he was a senator when he was chairman of the judiciary committee and he said say perhaps we should not consider supreme court justices in an election year. strom thurman came to the senate floor and said there should be no such exception. it should be a process which should not be changed for
election year expediency. it signified the majority of our government. the man who was the republican chair ranking republican on judiciary at the time said there's no such rule. >> and andrea mitchell, back to you. the kind of politics we just heard from mitch mcconnell, and we quickly add the kind of politics employed by his adversary in the senate, harry reid, they were the choices after all of the voters of kentucky and nevada respectively. many people have said that right there has given rise to all of this movement we are seeing in american politics. it's example of the old, broken system, where nothing gets agreed to, nothing gets fixed and very little gets through the u.s. senate. >> exactly. the personal relationship between those two men is almost
nonexistent. i don't mean to, you know, wax eloquent about the past, but even partisans like bob dole and george mitchell when i was covering the senate, they would meet everyday, they never had a cross word. publicly we would go to the senate every day with pad and pencil and they would tell the reporters, this is the agenda for today, this is what's going to move, this is what's not going to move, this is what we agreed to. the senate moved along. so that's what i think the white house is hoping that they can campaign very actively against the obstructionism of nonaction, not doing their job. that is their best argument against not even meeting or holding a hearing. >> before we hand things over to andrea mitchell at the top of the hour, i want to hear from our chief legal correspondent who is here with us in our new york news room after a long night of covering election
returns. ari, what do you make of this news, this choice? >> you mention the election returns. i'll start there briefly. all of this from the republican side is making a bet that they think they can win the white house back and name their own person. it's a political bet. on the other hand, all of this could change if in the coming months there's a trump nomination a view he is unlikely to win, merrick garland, this consensus pick may start looking much more attractive to republican. it's fair to say as we reported right now there is no appetite for hearings let alone a vote in the republican caucus. you go through a rough political summer and fall and think a potential hillary clinton with a potential democratic senate would be naming the next supreme court justice, they may get someone younger and progressive record than merrick garland. it's hard to predict. merrick garland is chief judge of the most important court that oversees the disputes between congress and the executive branch, the d.c. circuit does
more than one thing. the thing it does the most is look at those disputes, agency law, executive power, federal power what the law is called administrative power. he is in a position to be a significant player in these battles legal and political for years to come. that may also affect how they want to treat him in the long run, brian. >> with our thanks to ari, tom goldsteen, ron allen, pete williams, kelly o'donnell, andrea mitchell i hope i have named them all, kind of like the academy awards and luke rhussert on capitol hill. thank you. that's all the folks who contributed to our coverage as the president has named a nominee, merrick garland, of the federal bench to fill the vacancy created by the death of justice antonin scalia. let the politics now begin. and let andrea mitchell at the top of the hour begin her
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>> i said i would take this process seriously and i did. over my seven years as president, in all my conversations with senators from both parties in which i asked their views on qualified supreme court nominees, the one name that has come up repeatedly from republicans and democrats alike is merrick garland. to suggest that someone who has served his country with honor and dignity with a distinguished track record of delivering justice for the american people, might be treated as one republican leader stated a pinata, that can't be right. >> the nominee judge garland taken by emotion in the rose garden sar m garden ceremony. >> thank you, mr. president. this is the greatest honor in my life. a life of public servi