Congressman Daniel Donovan—New York City’s lone Republican in the House of Representatives—today urged members of his party in the U.S. Senate to consider President Barack Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court.
Speaking to reporters after an unrelated event in his native Staten Island, Mr. Donovan rued the decision of fellow Republicans to refuse hearings to Appeals Court Judge Merrick Garland, whom Mr. Obama nominated in March to succeed the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Senate Republicans insist that the responsibility to name a new SCOTUS should fall to the next president.
“I’ve never thought that was a good idea. I’ve always thought that the Republicans were wrong, that they should see who the nominee was—actually, the president nominated Judge Garland—and judge him on his abilities, his jurisprudence,” Mr. Donovan said. “I think it’s one of the things that gets the public upset about politics, that they see things not moving.”
Since Scalia died in February, the eight remaining justices have handed down several 4-4 split decisions—effectively leaving a lower court’s ruling in place. They also recently punted on a series of challenges to the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that employers providing insurance cover their employees’ contraceptives, a move Mr. Donovan noted was unusual.
“I think this is an issue that people could point at and say ‘see, government’s stalled, government doesn’t move forward,'” the congressman said. “There’s a very important seat open in the Supreme Court, the people that interpret the rules of the country we live by. And it’s unfair to the public.”
A number of prominent Democrats—including then-Sen. Joseph Biden, now the vice president of the United States—have in the past argued against letting Republican presidents in the final months of their term nominate new justices to the court. Mr. Donovan himself said he did not know if he personally would support Mr. Garland’s confirmation, but argued the jurist deserved the opportunity to explain his stances on key legal matters.
“You don’t have to confirm the nomination. But they should hold the hearings and judge this person who’s the nominee on their credentials,” he said. “I haven’t looked at his credentials. I know what I’ve read in the newspaper. But in the hearings he’d be asked pointed questions which I don’t think we have the advantage of now, because we don’t have a hearing! We’d be able to judge the man better if he was able to respond to some of the questions people have.”
This is not the first time Mr. Donovan has criticized Republicans in the Senate for holding up the confirmation of an Obama-nominated official. While running for his seat in a special election last year, the former district attorney urged his party to instate Loretta Lynch as U.S. attorney general.
Neither Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office, nor that of Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley responded to requests for comment.