Obama Calls SCOTUS Flap ‘Dangerous’ to Democracy During University of Chicago Discussion

Republican lawmakers are pushing to block Obama’s nomination until a new president is elected next year

President Barack Obama told faculty and students at the University of Chicago Law School Thursday that a Republican push to block his Supreme Court nomination is "dangerous."

"It’s not just that the Republican majority in the Senate intend to vote against a highly qualified judge, we now have a situation where they’re saying we simply will not consider the nomination," Obama said.

During the discussion, the president continued to make his case for fellow Chicago native Merrick Garland and touched on the Senate’s constitutional responsibility to give a fair hearing to the qualified nominee, whom Obama nominated to the Supreme Court at a White House Rose Garden ceremony in March.

"If the question is qualifications and excellence, it is uniformly viewed by not just Democrats but also Republicans, those who served, judges, legal scholars, members of the Supreme Court that he is as good of a judge as we have in this country right now," Obama said. "That he’s fair, he’s smart, he’s objective."

Republican lawmakers are pushing to block Obama’s nomination until a new president is elected next year. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called Garland after he was nominated to inform him the Senate would not move forward with the confirmation process.

"If you start getting into a situation in which the process of appointing judges is so broken, so partisan, that an immensely qualified jurist cannot even get a hearing, then we are going to see the kinds of sharp partisan polarization that have come to characterize our electoral politics seeping into our entire judicial system," Obama said Thursday. "That erodes the institutional integrity of the judicial branch."

"If confidence in the courts consistently breaks down, then you start seeing our attitudes about democracy generally start to break down, legitimacy breaking down in ways that are very dangerous," he added.

Garland met with Illinois Republican Sen. Mark Kirk last Tuesday, who lobbied for other Republican senators to meet with the nominee and vote. Garland also visited with Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, who was at the University of Chicago Law School with Obama Thursday. 

"What a good moment for us to have somebody who is respected by both sides," Obama said.

Obama, who taught constitutional law at the university for over a decade, also discussed topics including criminal justice reform, diversity in politics and even policies involving drone strikes during the discussion Thursday.  

He called out some students who were using their phones, saying they may not be allowed to have those in court if they become lawyers. 

"I'm just saying you guys might want to practice," he said. 

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