Supreme Court nominee Judge Merrick Garland (L) meets Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill.,in Kirk's office Tuesday on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Kirk is the first GOP Senator to meet with Merrick. Some Republican Senators announced they will block any Supreme Court nominee put forth by President Barack Obama. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
WASHINGTON, March 30 (UPI) -- Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk said he would consider approving Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court after he became the first Republican senator to meet with the judge.
Kirk briefly spoke with Garland, President Barack Obama's nominee to fill a Supreme Court vacancy, at the Capitol on Tuesday. The meeting came despite insistence by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., that consideration of Garland would not progress until after the November elections.
"I think when you just say, 'I'm not going to meet with him at all,' that's too closed-minded. We need open-minded, rational, responsible people to keep an open mind to make sure the process works," Kirk said, prior to the meeting.
"Obviously, I would consider voting for him," Kirk added.
Kirk is one of 16 Republican senators, of 54 in the GOP-majority Senate, who have expressed an interest in meeting with Garland. Most are regarded as moderates, and most are considered among the most vulnerable in November's elections. They include Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., who like Kirk have expressed eagerness to hold confirmation hearings for Garland. Others, including Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., have said they would meet with Garland only as a courtesy.
Opposition to holding immediate hearings centers on replacing conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who died at 79 in February, with the respected but more left-leaning Garland. The appointment of Garland would effectively end the 5-4 conservative majority on the court, and Democrats have signaled they intend to make Republican inflexibility on the matter a campaign issue in 2016.