Sen. Mark Kirk became the first Republican senator to meet with President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland Tuesday afternoon in the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C.
Details remain scarce about the meeting between Kirk and Garland, which lasted just under a half hour. Prior to the meeting, Kirk addressed the press in his D.C. office.
The senator said he was leading by example by meeting with Garland, but also noted he hadn’t lobbied for other Republican senators to meet with the nominee. Kirk also said he would consider voting for Garland if the opportunity presented itself, NBC News' Alex Moe reports.
“We need open-minded, rational, responsible people to… make sure the process works,” Kirk told reporters in his Senate office prior to Tuesday’s meeting.
A group of senators, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is looking to stifle Obama’s appointment by not holding confirmation hearings for the Chicago native.
Kirk tweeted a photo with Garland Tuesday captioned with a message to fellow Republican lawmakers.
“As the first #GOP Senator to meet with #MerrickGarland, I urge my colleagues in the #Senate to do the same,” Kirk wrote.
Earlier this month, Kirk called on fellow Republican legislators to “man up and cast a vote” on Garland. Two other Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Jerry Moran of Kansas, have also called for a hearing for Garland in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“We should go through the process the Constitution has already laid out,” Kirk said. “The president has already laid out a nominee who is from Chicagoland and for me, I’m open to see him, to talk to him, and ask him his views on the Constitution.”
Rep. Tammy Duckworth, the Democratic nominee in the race for Kirk’s Senate seat, addressed the meeting in a statement provided to Ward Room.
"Senator Kirk seems to expect extra credit for doing the bare minimum- in this case his job,” Duckworth spokesman Matt McGrath said in a statement. “While it’s nice that he’s meeting with Judge Garland, Kirk’s cynicism was revealed when he told a conservative talk radio host that he didn’t expect Mitch McConnell to allow the nomination to proceed, and he’s done absolutely nothing in the meantime that would make McConnell feel the least bit inconvenienced for his obstruction.”
"Instead of going through the motions, Senator Kirk should show leadership by putting pressure on McConnell and urge him to give an eminently qualified Illinois native a fair hearing followed by an up-or-down vote,” McGrath added.
In that release, McGrath alluded to statements Kirk made earlier this month on the Big john Howell Show.
“I think that given Mitch’s view, I don’t see his view changing too much,” Kirk said. “You know, eventually, we’ll have an election and we will have a new President. The new President will obviously come forward with a nomination. And that’s all for the politics of a new time.”
A vacancy on the country's highest court was left after Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died in February.