President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court on Wednesday morning, hoping to fill the seat vacated by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
Garland, 63, was previously appointed to the District of Columbia Court Of Appeals by President Bill Clinton, and was speculated by many to be on the short list of potential replacements for Scalia. He is a graduate of Harvard Law School and has supervised high profile cases like that of the Unabomber and the Oklahoma City bombing. His appointment was overwhelming confirmed by the Senate in 1997 in a strong show of bipartisanship, as Obama noted during his speech announcing Garland's nomination.
"I've selected a nominee who is widely recognized not only as one of sharpest legal minds but someone who brings to his work a spirit of decency, modesty, integrity, even-handedness and excellence," Obama said.
But this year, congressional Republicans have promised to reject any nomination made by Obama, saying they believe the next president should choose who to appoint. While Garland's previous rulings suggest he is markedly more liberal and progressive than Scalia, many believe him to be the kind of moderate choice that signals a compromise from Obama.
"To find someone with such a long career of public service marked by complex and sensitive issues, to find someone who just about everyone not only respects and but genuinely likes that is rare and it speaks to who Merrick Garland is not just as a lawyer but as a man," Obama said.
The extent to which Garland is a moderate will certainly be under scrutiny in the coming days. While his pro-law enforcement stances may appeal to the right, he has also paved the way for stricter gun laws in Washington, D.C., which are sure to please Democrats in the Senate.
Over the next few days, many expect a battle to rage on Capitol Hill. Democrats hope that Garland's experience will force the Republicans to buckle under the pressure and approve the nomination, but at this time it's tough to tell what will happen.
Cover image via Jim Bourg-Pool/Getty Images.