Moderate Republican Senator Susan Collins calls for hearings for Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland but is rebuffed by Senate Republican leaders. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) STORY: A moderate Republican senator heaped praise on President Barack Obama's U.S. Supreme Court nominee on Tuesday, bucking Senate Republican leaders who promptly dismissed her call for confirmation hearings. Susan Collins of Maine became only the second Republican senator to meet with Merrick Garland since Obama nominated the centrist appellate judge last month to fill the court's vacancy left by the Feb. 13 death of Justice Antonin Scalia. The hour-long meeting came at a time when Republican senators are facing mounting pressure from conservative activists to go along with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's plan to block any nominee chosen by Obama. "The meeting left me more convinced than ever that the process should proceed. The next step, in my view, should be public hearings before the Judiciary Committee," Collins told reporters. About two hours later, McConnell told reporters, "It's safe to say there will not be hearings or votes" on Garland, a position he has held to since the day Scalia died. Garland met last week with Illinois Senator Mark Kirk, who called fellow Republicans "closed-minded" for refusing to consider the nomination. McConnell and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley have said Obama's successor, who will be elected on Nov. 8 and take office on Jan. 20, should fill Scalia's vacancy. Grassley has invited Garland to a breakfast meeting to explain why he will not hold hearings, a Grassley spokeswoman said on Monday. Democrats kept up their attack on Republicans for blocking Garland. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Senate Democrat, said if McConnell stands firm, Garland would be "the first presidential nominee to the Supreme Court in history to be denied a hearing." The court is now split 4-4 between conservatives and liberals, meaning Scalia's successor could influence its ideological direction for years to come. Republican Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, set to meet next week with Garland, said if a Democrat wins the presidential election, Garland should be confirmed by the Senate "in a heartbeat" during a post-election legislative session.