Conservative groups bitterly denounced Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas on Friday for his apparent endorsement of Senate hearings for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.
“At least Judas Iscariot had the common courtesy to wait until after supper to betray his friends,” said a statement — on Good Friday — from Andrea Lafferty of the Traditional Values Coalition, a Washington-based conservative group.
Others chimed in.
“This is a perfect example as to why conservative activists have no faith in their elected officials,” said FreedomWorks CEO Adam Brandon in a statement.
“The American people must have a say in who fills this vacancy,” said a statement from Billy Valentine of the Susan B. Anthony List, a group that opposes abortion rights.
“Caving into President Obama, who wants to create a liberal-dominated Supreme Court as part of his legacy, is not serving the people of Kansas,” said Carrie Severino of the Judicial Crisis Network.
“We hope Senator Moran will reconsider and stand with Kansans and the American people, rather than President Obama and his liberal allies,” said a statement from Jenny Beth Martin of the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund.
The angry reaction was prompted by stories in the Garden City Telegram and the Dodge City Daily Globe that quoted Moran, a Republican, as saying he would not oppose hearings on the Garland nomination.
“I think we have the responsibility to have a hearing, to have the conversation and to make a determination on the merit,” Moran said in a town hall meeting.
As the furious conservative reaction spread across the country Friday, Moran attempted to clarify his remarks.
“I am opposed to President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee and this administration’s attempt to put another liberal judge on the Supreme Court,” Moran’s statement said. “As I have said since the vacancy was created, I believe I have a duty to ask tough questions and demand answers. I am certain a thorough investigation would expose Judge Garland’s record and judicial philosophy and disqualify him in the eyes of Kansans and Americans.”
Some conservative groups suggested Moran’s remarks might convince a candidate to run against him in this year’s Senate GOP primary in Kansas. Moran has no Republican opponent.
Speculation centered on Milton Wolf, the physician who challenged Sen. Pat Roberts in 2014. In a series of tweets, Wolf sharply criticized Moran but did not say he would enter the race.
The filing deadline is June 1.
Despite the anger from conservative groups, Moran’s previous statements have hinted at support for a regular inquiry into a nominee to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the nation’s highest court.
In Februrary and again in March, Moran said that the Senate should consider the president’s pick but that the choice would be unlikely to gather enough support to join the court.
Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate’s majority leader, has said there will be no votes or hearings on the pick. Democrats and the White House have criticized that position, saying the Senate has a constitutional duty to consider Garland’s nomination.