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DES MOINES — Although it may not be a realistic hope, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller still hopes Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland gets an up-or-down vote in the U.S. Senate.
Miller was among the speakers on a conference call Monday who called for Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley to hold confirmation hearings on President Barack Obama's nominee — the eve of the Iowa Republican's scheduled breakfast meeting with Garland.
Miller, a Democrat in his ninth term, rejected Grassley's argument that voters should get to weigh in on the nomination by participating in the general election this fall. Americans will elect a new president and Iowans will decide whether Grassley gets a seventh term.
'When President Barack Obama was re-elected in 2012 he was elected to a four-year term and during that four-year term he has the power to nominate people for the Supreme Court,' Miller said. 'It's for the full four years.'
However, Grassley spokeswoman Beth Levine pointed out that voters elected a Republican Senate in 2014 'to be a check on the Obama presidency and by President Obama's own words, the 2014 election was a referendum on his agenda.'
Miller was joined on the call, which was organized by the Constitutional Responsibility Project, by Drake University law professor Mark Kende and Des Moines attorney Keith Uhl. They participated in an event at the Supreme Court building in Washington last week to call on Grassley to 'do your job.'
'Iowans are disturbed' by Grassley's refusal to hold a hearing on the Garland nomination, according to Uhl, who was part of Grassley's first U.S. Senate campaign in 1980.
'Back here in Iowa, quite frankly … I have never seen such concern among Republicans and Democrats for not providing a fair hearings and an opportunity for the U.S. Senators to vote however they choose on this very qualified nominee,' Uhl said.
'It's time to man up and vote,' he said.
Levine noted that Uhl was a member of Grassley's first campaign committee in 1980, 'and he still considers Keith a friend.'
'They have a difference of opinion on this issue even while Mr. Uhl supports Sen. Grassley's work to achieve bipartisan criminal justice reform,' she said. In fact, one of Uhl's concerns is the dispute over the Supreme Court nomination will interfere with progress on those reforms.
The court is 'surprisingly both important and fragile,' Kende said. It is dependent on the executive and legislative branches of government 'to act in good faith and cooperate.'
In this case, he said, the Senate is not treating the court as a coequal branch of government. He believes the Judiciary Committee has a constitutional obligation to provide a fair hearing.
'It's wonderful there's a breakfast tomorrow, but why not have a public discussion,' Kende said.
Also Monday, Why Courts Matter organized demonstrations in Cedar Rapids, Des Moines and Waterloo to call for Senate hearings on Garland.