The stalled nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court is giving President Barack Obama a chance to do what he says he’s missed: go back to school.
Obama was returning to the University of Chicago Law School on Thursday to argue his case for why the Senate should give Garland a seat on the nation’s most powerful court.
Obama taught constitutional law at the university for about a decade before entering politics. He was being joined Thursday by a former law school colleague, professor David Strauss, for a conversation with students, faculty and judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, which has jurisdiction over legal matters from Illinois, and other local judges.
Obama chose Garland, a Chicago native and chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, to fill the seat left empty by the February death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia.
The next step in the process of elevating someone to the Supreme Court typically has the nominee answering questions during hearings by the Senate Judiciary Committee, before the panel’s members vote on whether to forward the nomination to the floor for a confirmation vote by the full Senate.
But Republican Senate leaders, led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa are refusing to hold hearings or votes on Garland’s nomination, maintaining that it’s the next president’s responsibility to choose the newest justice. Obama, a Democrat, is in his final months in office.
Garland, meanwhile, has been meeting with both Democratic and Republican senators on Capitol Hill. But there is no indication that these meet-and-greet sessions that take place in front of the news media, a custom endured by modern-day nominees, are influencing the political calculus of the Senate Republican leadership.
Most GOP senators, including McConnell, have said they will not meet with Garland. Grassley has invited the judge to meet over breakfast on Tuesday.
Obama’s return to the university will mark his first stop there as president. He has often commented on how he misses teaching. It also is his second trip of the year to his adopted Illinois home state.
From Chicago, Obama was to head to California to raise campaign cash for his fellow Democrats at events through late Friday.
He was headlining a House Democratic fundraiser Thursday night at the Los Angeles home of Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn. House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, was among those scheduled to attend the soiree, where tickets cost $33,400 per couple, officials said.