Coons praises high court nominee but remains undecided

DOVER — Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., met with Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland Thursday and said he was encouraged but remains undecided on whether to support him.

The chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, Judge Garland was nominated by President Obama last month to fill a vacancy that arose from the February death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

Sen. Chris Coons

Sen. Chris Coons

Sen. Coons, a member of the Judiciary Committee, met privately with Judge Garland for about 45 minutes in Washington. He said afterward he has yet to decide how he would vote on Judge Garland’s nomination but called the judge “exactly the sort of person who I had hoped the president would nominate for this position.

“I’m encouraged that he also has both an appreciation for and values the skill of building consensus,” he said in a conference call.

Sen. Coons had spoken in favor of nominating a well-respected moderate to fill the open seat on the high court, and Thursday, he praised Judge Garland as “an extraordinary intelligent man” who respects precedent and knows when to advance the law.

Despite his words in favor of Judge Garland, the senator said he is “not anywhere near” finished reading through opinions written and decisions reached by the judge during his 19 years on the bench.

Whether he will be able to vote has yet to be determined. Republicans have pledged not to give the nominee a hearing, arguing the vacancy should be filled by the next president, who will be elected in November.

Sen. Coons said he hopes Judge Garland will receive a confirmation hearing, noting several Republican senators have agreed to meet with the nominee.

The president has done his job, and now lawmakers must do theirs, he said.

“I expect that as other senators, both Democrats and Republicans, are meeting with him, they are likely having the same experience that I just had, which is they are encountering a seasonal, thoughtful jurist who is worthy of support and could be a consensus candidate,” he said.

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