President-elect Joe Biden will appoint Merrick Garland, the federal judge who was denied a seat on the Supreme Court by Republicans in 2016, as his attorney general, two sources familiar with the case told NBC News on Wednesday.
The news of Biden Garland’s election was first announced by Politico.
Garland, 68, has been a district judge since 1997 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Columbia District Circuit.
As Democrats are expected to win a Senate majority after a strong show in Georgia’s two starting races, they are likely to find an easier way to confirm Garland as Attorney General – and eventually nominate the candidate to court.
Democrat Raphael Warnock defeated Republican Kelly Loeffler on Tuesday, according to NBC News, while Democrat Jon Ossoff will lead Republican David Perdue in Georgia’s remaining critical run-down election, which will determine Senate control and potentially the fate of Joe Biden’s presidency.
If Ossoff wins, the Democrats will regain control of the chamber, meaning Republicans will not be able to block Biden’s cabinet appointments and judicial selections, or just as easily limit their legislative agenda.
Garland is a veteran lawyer and a moderate man who can help restore the independence of the Department of Justice – this is Biden’s priority after criticisms that Trump has exerted too much influence on the department. His nomination would also allow Biden to appoint a junior judge to the critical DC district of the U.S. Court of Appeals.
Biden’s advisers discussed Ketanji Brown Jackson (50), who is currently a U.S. District Court judge in the U.S. District Court, to replace Garland in the DC District Court, a source familiar with the case told NBC News.
NBC News reported last month that Biden also sees former Alabama senator Doug Jones and Sally Yates, the former deputy attorney general, as his attorney general.
Garland came to the fore in 2016 after then-President Barack Obama nominated him to fill a vacancy in the Supreme Court that opened after the sudden death of Conservative lawyer Antonin Scalia.
But the Senate Republicans who controlled the chamber at the time refused to hold a hearing for him, let alone vote. At the time, they referred to something called the “Biden rule” at the hearings of judicial candidates in election years, arguing that vacancies in the Supreme Court that would arise in election years should be filled by the next elected president.
President Donald Trump eventually nominated Neil Gorusch to replace Scalia and was confirmed in 2017 by the GOP-controlled Senate.
However, Senate Republicans did not heed this so-called rule four years later when, just days before the 2020 election, they voted to confirm Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court, appointed by President Donald Trump’s death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg in September.