Senate Democrats seek February hearing for attorney general nominee Garland

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President-elect Joe Biden announces Justice Department nominees at his transition headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware
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Sarah N. Lynch
·2 min read
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By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top Democrat on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday blamed partisan gridlock for stalling the confirmation of President Joe Biden's attorney general nominee, Merrick Garland, and called on Republicans to set a Feb. 8 confirmation hearing.

In a letter to the Judiciary Committee chairman, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, incoming Democratic Chairman Dick Durbin said it was "regrettable" the two sides were still unable to reach a deal on a timetable for proceeding with Garland's confirmation.

"There is simply no justification to object to a Feb. 8 hearing," Durbin wrote in his letter to Graham, saying the date will not conflict with former President Donald Trump's impeachment trial, which is due to start the following day, and will still afford the committee members "ample time" to review Garland's record.

Garland, 68, is currently as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, one of 13 federal appeals courts

In response, Graham wrote to Durbin that a one-day hearing on Garland's nomination was not enough, noting that the last five nominees for attorney general had two-day hearings.

"I look forward to questioning Judge Garland and potentially supporting his nomination, but not on February 8," Graham wrote. "Proceeding with the confirmation of an attorney general and the impeachment of a former president at the same time would give neither the attention required," he wrote.

Since Biden was sworn into office on Jan. 20, the Senate has confirmed several key members of his cabinet, including Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.

However, Garland's nomination has yet to be scheduled, as Democrats and Republicans continue to hash out control of the Senate going forward.

Democrats control the 50-50 split chamber by virtue of Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris' holding the tie-breaking vote in the Senate. But Democratic and Republican leaders were working out details on how committees will operate.

Durbin is expected to become the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Democratic former President Barack Obama nominated Garland to the Supreme Court in 2016 while Biden was vice president. The Republican-controlled Senate refused to hold hearings on the nomination, allowing Trump to fill the seat after he assumed office in January 2017.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Leslie Adler)