WASHINGTON (AP) – Merrick Garland was set to meet Tuesday with Republican Sen. Mark Kirk, marking the Supreme Court nominee’s first courtesy call on a senator whose party leaders have vowed to hold no hearings or vote until a new president is chosen.
Kirk, who represents Democratic-leaning Illinois, is perhaps the most endangered Senate Republican facing re-election in November. And when it comes to the battle over President Barack Obama’s pick to fill the court vacancy, Kirk has been an outlier.
He’s one of just three Senate Republicans to say the Senate Judiciary Committee should hold hearings on Garland. And he’s one of two GOP senators – along with Susan Collins, R-Maine – to say the full chamber should vote on the nominee.
Earlier this month, Kirk said on a Chicago radio program that the Senate should “man up and cast a vote.”
Democrats have been insisting that the Senate go through the regular confirmation process for Garland, the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. With most public opinion polls showing majorities favoring action on Garland, Democrats’ goal is to force GOP senators to buckle under pressure or make some of them facing re-election this fall pay the price on Election Day.
At least 13 Senate Republicans have said they’d be willing to meet with the federal judge.
Garland has met with seven Democratic senators.