Murphy, Blumenthal say Supreme Court diminished by vacancy

Washington – Pressing for a vote on President Obama’s stalled nomination of Merrick Garland for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, Sen. Chris Murphy said the nation may be heading for an “era” when there will be fewer than nine justices to interpret the nation’s laws.

Murphy said the partisan divide over Garland – Republicans say it isn’t right to consider a Supreme Court nominee so late in a president’s last term – will remain for years and there’s little chance of approving a nominee unless the presidency and the Senate are held by the same party.

“We may be in for an era where we have six or seven or eight Supreme Court Justices at any time,” Murphy said. “Never in our history has Congress had this level of disrespect.”

He met with Garland Wednesday, and said the nominee is well-qualified for the highest court.

“I’m inclined to support him,” Murphy said.

Also on Wednesday, Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, including Sen. Richard Blumenthal, held a forum aimed at pressuring Republican colleagues to hold a confirmation hearing on Garland.

The event, with supporters of Garland as witnesses, was meant to underscore the lack of an actual confirmation hearing.

“This hearing is no substitute for the real thing,” Blumenthal said.

He said there is “damage to our court and to our justice system,” by the lack of a full complement of nine justices.

Blumenthal said the Supreme Court is “diminished” by the 4-to-4 deadlocks it has had on key cases and by the failure of the eight-member court to take up cases that would result in a deadlock.

“Brown v. Board of Education,” a case decided 60 years ago this week that aimed to end school segregation, “would never have been decided by a 4-4 court,” Blumenthal said.

Meanwhile, GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump on Wednesday unveiled a “short list” of candidates he said he would appoint to the Supreme Court. They included several federal appeals court judges, including Steven M. Colloton of the Eighth Circuit, and Raymond M. Kethledge of the Sixth Circuit,  Raymond W. Gruender of the Eighth Circuit, William H. Pryor Jr. of the 11th Circuit, and Thomas M. Hardiman of the Third Circuit.

There were also several state supreme court justices on Trump’s list, including Joan Larsen of Michigan, Allison H. Eid of Colorado, David Stras of Minnesota, Thomas Rex Lee of Utah, and Don Willett of Texas.

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