Maine’s Collins ‘convinced’ Garland should get hearing

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( – Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said Tuesday that she met with President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Judge Merrick Garland, and she is “more convinced than ever that the process should proceed” despite the GOP leadership’s assertion that the next president should nominate the next Supreme Court justice.

“I’ve just concluded a more than hour-long meeting with Judge Garland. It was an excellent meeting that allowed us to explore many of the issues that I would raise with any nominee to the Supreme Court as well as some of the criticisms that have been levied against him. The meeting left me more convinced than ever that the process should proceed,” Collins told reporters on Capitol Hill.

She said the next step in her opinion “should be public hearings before the Judiciary Committee so that the issues that we explored in my office should be publicly aired, and so that senators can have a better opportunity to flesh out all of the issues that we discussed.”

Collins was asked whether she would approach Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) about her request and how much influence she thinks she will have on McConnell and Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) to back off their decision not to hold hearings on Garland’s nomination.

Collins noted that Grassley has agreed to meet with Garland.

“Let’s see if after that meeting Senator Grassley still holds to the position that there should not be hearings,” she said.

“I believe that the majority leader and Senator Grassley are very sincere in their belief that the next president should make this decision. I don’t happen to agree with that, and I believe that we should follow the normal order and proceed with public hearings,” Collins added.

Collins said she found Judge Garland to be “extremely straight forward” and that he answered all of her questions. She said she brought up issues like the Second Amendment and executive overreach of the role of the court, and Garland “gave very thorough, impressive responses to all of my questions.”

When asked whether she would vote for Garland, Collins said it was “premature” for her to reach that conclusion and that she always waits until after public hearings before reaching decisions on a nominee.

“That’s only prudent, because after public hearings, you have a far better sense of the nominee. We covered a lot of ground in our hour-long meeting, but obviously, public hearings with many senators posing questions allows for far more in-depth review of the qualifications, decisions, philosophy of the nominee,” she said.

When asked how disappointed she was in the leadership’s “no-hearing stance,” Collins said, “In my time in the Senate, I have always found that whether it’s legislation, nominations or treaties that we are best served by following the regular order.”

“That produces better bills,” she said. “It makes sure that nominees are fully vetted, and that to me is the way that we should proceed. I am not optimistic that I will be changing minds on this issue, but I think if more of my colleagues sit down with Judge Garland that they are going to be impressed with him,” she added.

— Written by Melanie Hunter