Tester deciding whether to back Garland for Supreme Court

Great Falls Tribune

by Christopher Doering

WASHINGTON – Sen. Jon Tester met with Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland Thursday, but said he hasn’t decided whether to support him.

“Quite frankly, I don’t think you can make that decision for such an important position in a half hour, 45-minute meeting,” Tester told reporters. “I’m going to need more information. I am not done vetting Judge Garland.”

Tester said he wants to read a 2,000-page questionnaire completed by Garland and hear his responses to questions from Senate lawmakers to find out more about how his opinions and work on previous cases would carry over to the Supreme Court. During Thursday’s meeting, they discussed gun rights, privacy and civil liberties and the growing influence of money and politics, Tester said.

“He was very forthright” in his responses, the Montana Democrat said.

Garland has met on Capitol Hill with several Republican and Democratic lawmakers in the Senate, hoping to persuade them to move forward with his nomination.

Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., said he does not plan to meet with Garland.

“I will oppose any hearing or votes for President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court,” he said.

Most GOP senators have said they want the Supreme Court vacancy created by the February death of Justice Antonin Scalia to be filled by the next president, contending that voters will then have a say in the nomination. Democrats have countered that voters already have a say through Obama, and that the GOP is delaying action in hopes that a Republican will win the White House and nominate another conservative to replace Scalia.

Tester expressed frustration with the reluctance of Republicans to hold a hearing.

“If the Senate does not think Judge Garland is not qualified, then we should vote not to confirm him,” he said.