Sen. Dick Durbin, incoming chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called on Sen. Lindsey Graham on Monday to schedule a confirmation hearing next week for Merrick Garland, President Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Justice Department.
The Illinois Democrat’s request comes as the evenly split Senate has yet to pass an organizing resolution, which will determine the committees for the 117th Congress. Until the organizing resolution is approved, Republicans like Graham, of South Carolina, still hold committee gavels from the previous Congress.
In a letter to Graham, Durbin urged the outgoing Judiciary chair to hold Garland’s confirmation hearing next Monday, before the Senate begins its impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump. He also argued that Garland’s confirmation was particularly urgent in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol.
“To delay Judge Garland’s hearing jeopardizes our national security,” Durbin wrote. “The Attorney General oversees a multitude of Justice Department components and agencies that are vital to protecting the homeland from threats both foreign and domestic.”
Durbin said that while his committee staff has been working with Republican counterparts to schedule Garland’s hearing, they’ve now encountered “obstacles that needlessly delay” his confirmation.
Durbin added that he was “prepared to take other steps to expedite the Senate’s consideration of Judge Garland’s nomination should his hearing not go forward on February 8” in the absence of GOP cooperation.
Biden told committee staff on Jan. 6 that he planned to nominate Garland for attorney general. Garland is the former chief judge of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. He was also President Barack Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court in 2016, but his nomination was blocked by the GOP-controlled Senate.
The Senate Judiciary Committee received Garland’s paperwork last week. Typically, the committee has 28 days between receiving a nominee’s paperwork and the confirmation hearing. But Durbin told reporters recently that he was trying to reach an agreement with Republicans to shorten the amount of time.
In his letter on Monday, Durbin argued that a Feb. 8 hearing “affords ample time to review Judge Garland’s record,” and added that it would take place 13 days after the Committee received paperwork, “the same amount of time between the receipt of then-Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s [committee questionnaire] and her Supreme Court nomination hearing.”
Confirmation hearings for attorneys general have recently lasted two days, with the nominee testifying the first day and outside experts testifying the second.
Once the Senate approves the organizing resolution, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) will become the top Republican on the committee.
Spokespeople for Graham and Grassley did not immediately provide comment.
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