FAIRBANKS — Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski will meet with President Obama’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, but GOP colleague Sen. Dan Sullivan has no immediate plans to do so.
Murkowski has been asked to meet with Judge Merrick Garland, the chief judge of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit who Obama nominated to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by the Feb. 13 death of Justice Antonin Scalia, Murkowski spokeswoman Karina Petersen said in an email response to questions Friday.
A meeting has not yet been scheduled but will occur sometime in April, Petersen said.
“She plans to raise the recent Sturgeon decision and gauge Judge Garland’s understanding of the uniqueness of Alaska’s key statutes,” Petersen wrote, referencing the Statehood Act, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act and the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.
Murkowski, who is seeking election to a third six-year term this year, will also query Garland about the Second Amendment and about the Supreme Court’s 2008 ruling in the District of Columbia v. Heller case, which found that an individual has the right to have a handgun in the home for self-defense.
“She is currently doing her due diligence on Judge Garland’s record and opinions over this state work period and will have more following that review that we would be happy to share following the meeting,” Petersen wrote.
Garland faces long odds of confirmation in the Republican-controlled Senate. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, announced shortly after Scalia’s death that the Senate would not act on any nomination by Obama for the vacancy.
He said the nomination should be left for the next president and has also opposed taking up an Obama nomination after the election but before the swearing in of the next president if a Democrat wins the White House.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has said he spoke with Garland over the phone and that he told him the committee will not schedule a hearing, but he also said he will meet with the 63-year-old judge.
The Obama administration and Senate Democrats are trying to pressure GOP senators who may be vulnerable in the November election.
Three GOP senators have broken from their party leadership on the matter of confirmation hearings for Garland. They are Sen. Susan Collins, of Maine, Sen. Mark Kirk, of Illinois and Sen. Jerry Moran, of Kansas, who last week told a town hall meeting in his home state that “I have my job to do ... I think the process ought to go forward.”
Murkowski was asked in a February interview with the News-Miner how she would handle the impending nomination if she were majority leader. She said the Judiciary Committee should hold a hearing “for whomever the president should name ... ”
She expanded on her position in a statement the following day, saying that Obama should leave the nomination to the next president but that the “extraordinary circumstances” of the timing of the current vacancy give the Senate “every right to deny the nominee an up or down vote.”
Murkowski still believes a confirmation hearing is acceptable.
“The senator never held that position that the nomination should not be considered” by the Judiciary Committee, her spokeswoman said in the Friday email to the News-Miner.
Sullivan, who is facing his first Supreme Court vacancy as a senator, remains steadfast in his opposition to advancing any Supreme Court nomination by Obama at this stage of the calendar, supporting the view of Senate Republican leaders. He has no meeting scheduled with Garland.
“We have informed the White House that there is no need for a meeting at this time,” Sullivan spokesman Mike Anderson said in an emailed response to questions Friday.
“Senator Sullivan is more than happy to meet with Judge Garland next year,” Anderson also wrote without elaboration. A new Democratic president could renominate Garland upon taking office Jan. 20.
Contact Managing Editor Rod Boyce at 459-7585. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMeditor.