Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois has said multiple times since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia that he would be open to a hearing for his replacement, while all of his other Republican colleagues in the Senate have said the exact opposite.
Now that President Obama has actually appointed a nominee—D.C. appeals court judge Merrick Garland—it came time to see whether Kirk would actually keep his word. Surprisingly he did: he discussed the issue on WLS-AM’s “Big John Howell Show.”
During the interview, Kirk expressed that, “We should go through the process the Constitution has already laid out. The president has already laid out a nominee who is from Chicagoland and for me, I’m open to see him, to talk to him, and ask him his views on the Constitution.”
Kirk is embroiled in a difficult battle to keep his Illinois Senate seat (his opponent, Tammy Duckworth, is a well-respected veteran Democrat), which is most likely why he hopes to keep public perception in his favor and avoid the “obstructionist” label. However, regardless of motivation, he is at least performing the basic duties of his position.
Kirk pushed for a hearing, saying that his colleagues needed to, “just man up and cast a vote…[although] I think, given Mitch [McConnell’s] view, I don’t see his view changing too much.”
McConnell has clearly expressed he has no interest in holding a hearing for Garland, despite the fact that even a Fox News contributor said that Garland was about the best pick the Republicans could hope for. (The only actual liberal position Garland holds is that he has voted against the NRA—President Obama, as a Democrat, could not have picked a more conservative nominee to satiate Republicans.)
ThinkProgress rightly notes Kirk’s comments to “man up” are somewhat sexist, considering he has female Republican colleagues, and particularly because Sen. Susan Collins of Maine is the only other Republican senator to have also called for hearings.
Nevertheless, Kirk is one of the few Republicans who have stood up to the majority and declared that it is their job to follow the Constitution and hold hearings for Garland. Whether McConnell and other GOP leaders listen still remains extremely unlikely.
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