Senate Republicans argued their decision to bar Garland from receiving a hearing in 2016 was not personal.
“President Obama and his allies can now try to pretend that this disagreement is about a person,” McConnell said at the time, shortly after Garland was officially appointed by Obama. “The decision the Senate announced weeks ago remains a principle, not a person.”
Republicans, after winning the White House, occupied Scalia’s former seat with Judge Neil Gorsuch in 2017. McConnell described his decision to block Garland as “the most important thing I have ever done.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee held a two-day confirmation hearing this week for Garland. C.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas), a confidant of McConnell. Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, the senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, also spoke positively of Garland on Monday.
McConnell’s decision to back Garland as attorney general is not entirely surprising, especially since the Kentucky Republican recommended that he lead the FBI under the Trump administration. But his Tuesday announcement could pave the way for even more GOP senators to vote for Garland.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a committee vote on Garland’s appointment on March 1 and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin has said he hopes for final confirmation next week.
Garland is currently a judge on the powerful DC Circuit Court of Appeals, where he also served as Chief Justice. Prior to being appointed to the federal bench, Garland worked in the United States Department of Justice, where he played a key role in overseeing the criminal investigation into the Oklahoma City bombings in 1995.
During his confirmation hearing, Garland highlighted his law enforcement background. Over the weekend, the Justice Department released a list of law enforcement groups supporting him for the post of attorney general, including the Fraternal Order of the Police, which endorsed Donald Trump in the presidency in 2016 and again last year.