U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., met with U.S. Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland on Wednesday, as it remains unclear if President Barack Obama’s pick for a vacant seat will be considered before November’s general election.
“I am doing the job that I was elected to do by the people of Maryland,” Mikulski, a Democrat, said after the meeting in a written statement.
Senate Republicans have taken the position that the next president should choose a replacement for the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February.
Mikulski is retiring in January, after serving for 30 years in the Senate.
Two Maryland lawmakers are vying to replace her: U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-8th, and state Delegate Kathy Szeliga, R-Baltimore County.
Van Hollen said the Senate should act, regardless of whether it’s an election year.
“Majority Leader [Mitch] McConnell and the Senate Judiciary Committee must schedule a hearing and allow a timely up-or-down vote on the President’s nominee,” Van Hollen said in a statement. “Anything less would be a total abdication of the Senate’s constitutional responsibilities.”
Szeliga did not specifically say if a hearing or vote should be held before or after the presidential election.
But she said Garland’s nomination has become far too politicized.
“What we are seeing right now with this Supreme Court nomination is partisan politics at its worst on both sides of the aisle. The president should not have politicized a Supreme Court appointment by nominating someone this close to a presidential election. And Senators should not refuse to even meet with the president’s nominee,” Szeliga said in a statement.
Part of the debate over Garland’s nomination includes discussion about whether the U.S. Constitution clearly mandates a vote within a president’s tenure.
In a March interview, Szeliga said the Senate “should follow the Constitution,” which does not give any timeline for the nomination process. Szeliga also noted that Democratic leaders, including Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, have previously argued against Supreme Court nomination hearings during election seasons.
“If you look back at what President Obama said and what Chuck Schumer said and what other leading Democrats in the U.S. Senate have said in the past, you can look for direction on following the lead of those very leaders who said that the election year politicizing of Supreme Court justices is not good for our country,” Szeliga said in March.
Van Hollen stressed the need for a full bench of nine justices and emphasized Garland’s credentials.
“Judge Garland is a widely respected public servant who has proven his loyalty to his country and the law throughout his impressive career,” Van Hollen said in a statement. “Confirmed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in a 76-23 Senate vote with majority support from both parties, his ability to apply the law fairly has already been endorsed by Republicans and Democrats.”
While Mikulski said she is still weighing Garland’s credentials to make an “independent judgment,” she thinks a hearing and vote are in order — before she leaves office in January.
“Let’s hold a hearing and hold a vote on the Senate floor. I am doing my job. Now do your jobs,” Mikulski said in a statement directed to Senate colleagues after her morning meeting with Garland.