Editorial: Grab chance to confirm Garland

The Detroit News

It’s true that in this crazy election cycle anything’s possible, but Republicans have to be realistic about the dimming presidential chances of their nominee, Donald Trump. That’s why the GOP-controlled Senate should move on the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland now, and not risk that Hillary Clinton will get to fill the opening.

Certainly Garland is not a conservative, and will not walk in the footsteps of the late Antonin Scalia, the justice he would replace on the High Court.

But for a Democratic appointee, he’s the least liberal justice Republicans can expect. If Clinton wins in November she is quite likely to put forward a more liberal nominee, and a younger one. Garland is 63.

So, how convinced are Senate Republicans that Trump can turn his campaign around? With even some GOP senators refusing to get behind his bid, they surely know that a Republican victory is a very long shot. And the country will not tolerate a strategy of blocking every nominee a Democratic president offers.

They should take Garland and consider themselves lucky. And should Trump pull off an unlikely win, he will surely get a chance to make at least one or two appointments, considering the age and health of the justices, and could restore the conservative balance in time.

Garland is a well-respected federal appeals court judge with undeniable legal credentials and a reputation as a moderate.

He is a former prosecutor known for his meticulous legal reasoning. Described as being most similar in his approach to the law to Chief Justice John Roberts, his votes on the court could be independent-minded and critically important — for both sides.

While Garland’s record indicates liberal instincts, he’s not favored by progressives. His votes show less judicial activism than they do deference to prior court rulings. He’s stood for the First Amendment in campaign finance cases, and deferred to the government with regard to wartime powers.

Republican Senate leaders have blocked Garland’s nomination from even receiving a hearing, holding out for a chance to win the White House in which case they’ll control the appointment, and can replace Scalia with a true conservative.

That’s a risky bet, and an increasingly foolish one.

The more likely scenario is that Clinton will get to fill this opening, and any others that come up in the next four years, giving her the opportunity to enshrine a liberal court that will endure for decades.

Garland at least offers the hope of being a moderating influence on a Clinton court.

Elections have consequences, as Obama famously noted. So does nominating presidential candidates with such limited appeal to the broad electorate.

Republicans have seemingly blown their chances for retaking the White House by nominating Trump. They shouldn’t compound their mistake by turning down a Supreme Court appointee who is as close to moderate as they’re likely to see for a long, long time.