COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – A coalition of liberal groups staged rallies around the country on Monday targeting Republican senators who oppose confirmation hearings for President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.
More than 50 of the events – with the theme “Do Your Job!” – were scheduled. Some 25 to 30 people turned out in Ohio, where Sen. Rob Portman has stood firm with other Republicans in arguing that the next president should fill the court vacancy after American voters weigh in this November.
“Senator Portman has a job to do,” said Barbara Eakins, an Ohio State University retiree who joined the protest outside Portman’s Columbus office.
Eakins said she doesn’t buy the argument that the country should delay the replacement process until after a new president is elected.
“The idea that they need to wait until the people have spoken, well, the people already did speak,” she said. “They spoke when they elected Obama to office twice.”
Within hours of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death on Feb. 13, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said there will be no Senate Judiciary Committee hearing for any Obama nominee and no confirmation vote by the Senate. Obama announced last Wednesday that he had nominated Garland, a longtime appeals court judge who has had the support of Republicans in the past, but McConnell has not relented.
With the Senate on a two-week break, liberal groups focused on GOP offices back home and such senators as Portman; Iowa’s Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey.
In Milwaukee, dozens of people rallied inside City Hall and called on Sen. Ron Johnson to back confirmation hearings for Garland. Speakers came from several liberal groups, including those supporting immigrants’ rights and criminal justice reform.
Johnson has said he is willing to meet with Garland, but has made clear the Senate won’t hold a confirmation hearing.
Of the 54 Senate Republicans, just one has said publicly that there should be a vote – Mark Kirk of Illinois, one of the more vulnerable lawmakers up for re-election this fall.
The protesters delivered copies of the U.S. Constitution to the senators and, in some cases, offered to enroll the lawmakers in a community college civics course. The gesture is inspired in part by late author Harper Lee, who offered in 1966 to enroll a school board in the first grade after the board sought to ban “To Kill A Mockingbird.”
Democrat Ted Strickland, a former Ohio governor who seeks to unseat Portman this fall, capitalized on Monday’s effort with the launch of a web site.
His criticism of Portman for opposing the confirmation hearings has been unrelenting.