Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell indicated Tuesday he would vote to support President Joe Biden’s attorney general nominee, Merrick Garland, despite Republican criticism over his dodgy answers regarding immigration enforcement and other issues.
“I do,” the Kentucky Republican said Tuesday in response to a reporter’s question, though he wouldn’t elaborate.
Five years ago, McConnell, then Senate Majority Leader, blocked Garland from becoming then-President Barack Obama’s third Supreme Court appointment following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
McConnell explained at the time that the appointment was close to an election and that the American people should decide since the White House and Senate were controlled by competing political parties.
“President Obama and his allies may now try to pretend this disagreement is about a person,” McConnell said at the time. “The decision the Senate announced weeks ago remains about a principle, not a person.”
Republicans went on to win the White House in 2016; then-President Donald Trump successfully nominated Neil Gorsuch to replace Scalia.
Several other Republicans have also announced they will support Garland’s nomination including Sens. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas), Politico reported.
Garland is currently a judge on the important D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, where he once served as chief judge. Previously, he led the Justice Department’s investigation into the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing by right-wing figures including Timothy McVeigh.
Other Republicans have criticized Garland for dodging or hedging answers to questions involving domestic law enforcement priorities including radical groups like Antifa and BLM as well as immigration.
In one exchange this week during his Senate confirmation hearing, Garland would not say if he considered illegal immigration an enforceable crime.
“I haven’t thought about that question. I just haven’t thought about that question,” Garland stammered in response to grilling by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.). “I think the president has made clear that we are a country with borders and with a concern about national security. I don’t know if a proposal to decriminalize but still make it unlawful to re-enter. I just don’t know the answer to that question. I haven’t thought about it.”
Hawley then asked if Garland would “continue to prosecute unlawful border crossings.”
“This is, again, a question of allocation of resources,” Garland hedged. “The department will prevent unlawful crossing. I don’t know. I have to admit, I just don’t know exactly what the conditions are and how this is done. I don’t know what the current program even is with respect to this. I assume the answer would be yes, but I don’t know what the issues surrounding it are.”
Those answers drew the ire of former acting Customs and Border Protection chief Mark Morgan.
“The would-be attorney general for the United States stuttered and stammered, and [said] he hasn’t thought about one of the most important, divisive issues in this country that’s been a focus of both campaigns as we came up to” the November election, Morgan told Newsmax TV’s Greg Kelly Tuesday after the host played clips of Garland’s responses.
“We have to make sure we’re not using ideology or politics to decide which laws we’re gonna selectively enforce,” Morgan added. “Illegal immigration, the crisis we’re experiencing right now, isn’t a resource issue, it’s because we’re shifting to a new era. [The Biden administration] is incentivizing and facilitating the current crisis we’re in.”
Earlier, Garland raised some eyebrows when he testified he would “supervise the persecution of white supremacists” involved in the Capitol riot last month, though it is clear that their numbers were minuscule.
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