Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on voting to confirm Merrick Garland as U.S. attorney general, a sign of bipartisan support for his confirmation.

March 31, 2021
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“I’m voting to confirm Judge Garland because of his long reputation as a straight-shooter and legal expert.”

Garland was confirmed by a vote of 70-30 (all 30 who voted against his confirmation are Republicans, Republican support from others led to his confirmation).

  • As a federal prosecutor with the Department of Justice, Garland led the investigation into the Oklahoma City bombing and helped supervise the case against the Unabomber.
  • Pres. Obama nominated Garland for the Supreme Court in March 2016, but his nomination was blocked by Senator McConnell – the Senate Majority Leader at the time, who cited the election year as reason to block the nomination. For context: Sen. McConnell reversed that decision when former President. Trump nominated current Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett in September 2020, arguing that the American people would support that decision because they elected a Republican President and Republican Senate.
  • Garland is known as a legal scholar and more of a centrist, than a partisan. He served under both Republican and Democrat administrations in the Justice Department.

Why It Matters: The U.S. attorney general serves as the nation’s top law enforcement officer, leading the Justice Department, which will be in the spotlight as investigations continue into the riot on Capitol Hill and investigations, such as those focusing on Pres. Biden’s son Hunter and separately, Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s attorney and confidant.

During the confirmation hearing, Judge Garland said, “I come from a family where my grandparents fled anti-Semitism and persecution. Country took us in and protected us and I feel an obligation to the country to pay back and this is my highest, best use of my own set of skills to pay back.” 

Several years ago, when Pres. Obama nominated Judge Garland for the Supreme Court, he shared, “My family deserves much of the credit for the path that led me here,” Garland said. “My grandparents left the Pale of Settlement at the border of western Russia and Eastern Europe in the early 1900s, fleeing anti-Semitism and hoping to make a better life for their children in America.”

Read more about Garland’s background and the confirmation process HERE.

From the Associated Press: As he finally sat before the Judiciary panel in February, Garland sought to assure lawmakers that the Justice Department would remain politically independent on his watch. He said his first priority would be to combat extremist violence with an initial focus on the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, promising lawmakers that he would provide prosecutors with whatever resources they need to bring charges over the attack.

Garland will also inherit immediate political challenges, including an ongoing criminal tax investigation into Biden’s son, Hunter, and a federal probe into the overseas and business dealings of the former New York City mayor and Trump ally Rudy Giuliani, which stalled last year over a dispute about investigative tactics as Trump unsuccessfully sought reelection.

His confirmation also comes amid calls from many Democrats to pursue inquiries into Trump.

Separately, Garland will also be responsible for overseeing a special counsel investigation into the origins of the Russia probe, which shadowed Trump’s presidency for more than two years. Garland will have to decide how to handle it and what to make public.

by Jenna Lee,