Merrick Garland is an excellent choice to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. He is unquestionably qualified for the position, having served for 19 years as a judge on the federal Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit -- the court just below the Supreme Court. On the bench, he has earned a stellar reputation as a moderate judge who applied the law, not his personal preferences, to decide cases. The Senate should confirm him easily -- if Republicans don't refuse to do their constitutionally mandated job of considering his nomination.
Garland has what some might call the ideal background for a Supreme Court justice. A graduate of Harvard Law School and former Supreme Court clerk to William Brennan, Garland worked in the Department of Justice under the first Bush administration as a prosecutor before taking his current seat on the bench. At Justice, he led the prosecution of terrorists like the Oklahoma City bomber and the "Unabomber."
On the bench, he has carried over that toughness. He's voted against allowing terrorists to challenge their confinement in Guantanamo and been tough on crime. That's partly why Republicans like Orrin Hatch have previously praised Garland, saying "his intelligence and scholarship cannot be questioned."
No one can say that Garland is a political pick. He does not have a notably liberal record, and as a white male he does not appeal to die-hard liberals. Obama didn't pick him to motivate voters. He picked him because he is a bipartisan choice who is undoubtedly qualified for the position.
Will that be enough for the Senate to confirm him? Garland is the type of pick that makes it especially hard for Republicans to carry through their unprecedented refusal to hold hearings. The last time Garland was up for a Senate vote, Sen. Hatch accused Republicans who didn't support him of playing politics with the nomination process. His track record of consensus and moderation defies the inevitable claims that he is some radical.
A refusal by the Senate to even consider Garland would set a new standard for obstructionism. Nearly one in every three presidents has had a Supreme Court justice nominee confirmed during an election year. Yet Republicans say we should let the people decide. Of course, the people did decide who would nominate Supreme Court justices--back in 2012. One reason Republicans don't want to hold hearings is because someone like Garland is so clearly qualified that he's hard to vote against.
The president has done his job by identifying and nominating a qualified person to serve on the Supreme Court. Now the Senate should do its job.