Sen. Tester dishes on meeting with Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland

Missoula Indepedent


After a “short meeting” this morning with U.S. Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, Sen. Jon Tester remains undecided on whether he’ll ultimately support Obama’s choice to replace Antonin Scalia. According to Tester, the two discussed several topics including Second Amendment rights, civil liberties and the “growing influence of money in politics.” While Tester sounds fairly optimistic about what he’s heard so far, he insists he’s “not done vetting Judge Garland.”

“I think we’re too early in the process, quite frankly,” Tester says. “I don’t think you could make that decision for such an important position in a half hour, 45-minute meeting, which is basically how long I met with him.”

Tester was one of several Senate Democrats slated to meet with Garland one-on-one following his submission of a roughly 2,000-page questionnaire to the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this week. Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court has become mired in partisan politics, with congressional Republicans refusing to hold a hearing until after the 2016 presidential election. Tester views that inaction as a “dereliction of duty,” and on May 10 launched a social media campaign called #DoYourJob in attempt to ramp up pressure on his Republican colleagues. Even if they wait until the lame duck session of Congress later this year, Tester says, “I think they’re still doing a disservice to the country. If you’re going to do it, do it.”

Tester is still digging through Garland’s lengthy questionnaire and intends to dig deeper into any of his past rulings as chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C. that might be pertinent to issues like campaign finance. Tester says the two also discussed Garland’s role in the convictions of Montana’s Ted Kaczynski-aka the Unabomber-and Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. One of Tester’s biggest takeaways from this morning’s meetings was Garland’s stance on privacy, something Tester says he feels would resonate with Montanans and others.

“He talked about his daughter communicating, who lived in England for a while, and how they were concerned about somebody spying in on their conversations,” Tester says. “Look, that’s the same kind of stuff I think ordinary Americans think about when they’re using the internet or talking on their cell phones, and if he’s aware of that stuff that’s a very good sign. But I’d really like to do more investigation to find out if there are any cases that would indicate he made decisions otherwise.”