Thursday, 7 January 2021

Joe Biden chooses Merrick Garland as his attorney general - five years after Republicans refused to give him a hearing as SCOTUS nominee

 Joe Biden is tapping Merrick Garland to become his attorney general four years after then-President Barack Obama nominated him to fill an open Supreme Court seat but was thwarted by Republicans.

Garland is a federal appeals court judge who in 2016 was snubbed by the Republican Congress for a seat on the Supreme Court, which was left vacant after the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia.

Two people familiar with the selection process revealed Wednesday that Biden is expected to announce Garland's appointment on Thursday.

The president-elect will also announce on Thursday other senior leaders of the Justice Department – including former homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco as deputy attorney general and former Justice Department civil rights chief Vanita Gupta as associate attorney general.

Before deciding on Garland to one of his top cabinet positions, Biden was considering former Democratic Senator Doug Jones of Alabama and former deputy attorney general Sally Yates.

If he chose Yates, she would elevate from chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals in D.C. to run the Justice Department – thus leaving a vacancy there in which Biden would also fill. 

In 2016, then-President Barack Obama nominated Garland for the open Supreme Court seat, but was thwarted by a Republican-majority Congress

In 2016, then-President Barack Obama nominated Garland for the open Supreme Court seat, but was thwarted by a Republican-majority Congress

In picking Garland, Biden is turning to an experienced judge who held senior positions at the Justice Department decades ago, including as a supervisor of the prosecution of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

The pick will force Senate Republicans to contend with the nomination of someone they spurned in 2016, refusing even to hold hearings when a Supreme Court vacancy arose, but Biden may be banking on Garland's credentials and reputation for moderation to ensure confirmation.

Instead of Garland ascending to Scalia's seat, Justice Neil Gorsuch did so in 2017 after he was nominated by President Donald Trump.

Trump also was able to nominate two other Supreme Court nominees during his tenure as president – Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. Both were controversial, Kavanaugh for his past and sexual misconduct allegations against him and Barrett for being nominated so close to the presidential election.

Republicans in Congress argued in 2016 that they would not confirm Garland because it was too close to the election – where they expected Trump to win and knew they could earn another conservative justice.  

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