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House to Senate: no summer recess for you

Meet Merrick Garland, Supreme Court Nominee

Chief Judge Merrick Garland shares his story and his thoughts on being nominated to sit on the nation's highest court in this video produced by the White House. President Obama nominated Garland on March 16, 2016.
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Chief Judge Merrick Garland shares his story and his thoughts on being nominated to sit on the nation's highest court in this video produced by the White House. President Obama nominated Garland on March 16, 2016.

House Democrats want to put the Senate in summer school.

Six House representatives who are running for Senate seats introduced a bill Wednesday that would force the Senate to stay in session over the summer until it considers the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court vacancy.

Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn, along with Reps. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.; Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.; Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Az.; Patrick Murphy, D-Fla.; and Jared Polis, D-Co., all seek to join Congress’ upper house. But first, they are demanding the Senate fulfill its constitutional obligation to hold a hearing on Garland. The representatives dubbed their legislation the “SCOTUS” bill: Senate’s Court Obligations Trump Unconstitutional Stalling.

“The American people expect Congress to do its job even when there is an election coming up,” Esty said in a statement. “Senator McConnell, Senator Grassley, and their colleagues are acting as though they have a choice whether to do their jobs or play political games. We should pass the SCOTUS Resolution and make clear that they have no such choice: Congress can either carry out its Constitutional responsibility or members will lose the privilege of time off to campaign for their seats.”

The bill, which would punish the Senate if it doesn’t act on Garland before July 19, is unlikely to gain traction in the Republican-controlled House.

Senate Republicans have refused to hold hearings or take a vote on President Barack Obama’s nominee to fill the seat of Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February. They argue that the vacancy should remain until after the election so the newly elected president can appoint a candidate. The eight remaining justices of the Supreme Court have shown hesitancy to rule without a complete bench, this week throwing a case over birth control provisions in the health care law back to lower courts to avoid a possible 4-4 ruling.

On Wednesday, Democrats held an nontraditional public meeting led by Sen. Patrick Leahy, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, to discuss Garland’s qualifications for joining the Supreme Court. Senators who don’t serve on that committee were also allowed to question witnesses about Obama’s nominee.

“I can’t convene a confirmation hearing, we’re in the minority,” Leahy said of his party. “But just because Republicans have refused to do their job on Judge Garland’s nomination doesn’t mean that we Democrats will stop doing ours. We take our constitutional duty seriously.”

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