Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee, is returning to his federal judge duties after the Republican-controlled Senate refused to vote on his nomination.
Obama nominated Garland on March 16 following the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, reports The New York Times. But Republicans banded together to refuse a vote on grounds that a president shouldn't appoint a Supreme Court nominee during an election year.
Garland, a former federal prosecutor, has not been known as a particularly liberal judge, and shortly after the nomination was announced, NPR reporter Renee Montage tweeted that Republican senators might have told the White House they would approve his nomination if Democrats won the 2016 presidential election.
While Obama tried to get Republicans to vote before the election, Republicans said the 2016 presidential election should determine who gets to nominate the next Supreme Court justice.
“The American people may well elect a president who decides to nominate Judge Garland for Senate consideration,” Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in March, according to Slate. “The next president may also nominate someone very different. Either way, our view is this: Give the people a voice in the filling of this vacancy.”
According to the White House website, six Supreme Court justices have been confirmed during election years since 1900.
A last-ditch effort to force a vote on Garland's nomination was made by a New Mexico lawyer who petitioned the Supreme Court to force the Senate to hold a vote.
That petition was denied by Chief Justice John Roberts, reports NPR.
Garland will start hearing cases for the D.C. Circuit on Jan. 18, reports Politico.