Merrick Garland and the Stalemate Senate: Does the Senate Owe Nominees A Vote?

On March 16, 2016, President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to fill the vacancy left by the passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Immediately after the passing of the iconic justice, there were frenzied media stories regarding who President Obama might pick to replace him, what the Republican-controlled Congress would do, and what the vacancy and subsequent nomination would mean for the cases left on the SCOTUS docket.

It didn’t take long for the Senate’s plan to come together; the plan could be described by one word: Obstruction. On the day of the nomination, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell stated that Garland would not get a vote and refused to meet with the jurist, igniting a debate regarding the Senate’s responsibility to hold confirmation hearings for presidential nominees. The president, with several important cases on the docket regarding affirmative action, abortion, and religious freedom and the Affordable Care Act, and eager to get the seat filled, charged that voting on the nominee was part of the Senate’s work that doesn’t stop near the end of a presidential term.


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