Republicans rush to brand Obama's court pick a 'liberal' as cracks form in their ranks

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The Possible Strategy Behind Obama's Supreme Court Pick

The GOP is rushing to label US President Barack Obama's Supreme Court tap as a "liberal" in an attempt to squash a divide among its ranks.

Obama unveiled his pick, Judge Merrick Garland, Wednesday morning.

Almost immediately, GOP-aligned groups sought to brand Garland as a jurist who would be aligned with the left-wing of the court on key issues like gun control.

SEE ALSO: Who is Merrick Garland? Meet President Obama's nominee to the Supreme Court

Indeed, the Republican National Committee's "Meet Merrick Garland" research file used the world "liberal" 32 times, as well as in almost every one of the points it stressed.

That came after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday that his party wouldn't be holding a hearing for Garland because of "principle" and not because of "the person."

See how politicians are reacting to the appointment:

25 PHOTOS
Twitter reaction to Merrick Garland's nomination
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Republicans rush to brand Obama's court pick a 'liberal' as cracks form in their ranks
This has never been about who the nominee is. It is about a basic principle. https://t.co/dGwHUBuLZw https://t.co/Z6nLdcuHWL
I commend @POTUS on his nomination of Chief Judge Merrick Garland as an associate justice on the Supreme Court. https://t.co/orbFiOZ7oL
Statement on President Obama's nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court: https://t.co/GTcLMLyS6I
Lame duck POTUS is doing us a disservice w/ attempt to tip balance of #SCOTUS in the 11th hr https://t.co/C4BhigPfES https://t.co/QDWz6o1ql4
.@SenateMajLdr McConnell comments on Supreme Court nomination is here: https://t.co/LvNozLmMQf #SCOTUSnominee
The American people are perfectly capable of having their say on the #SCOTUSnominee. So let’s give them a voice. https://t.co/8KyGZTuqoo
Merrick Garland is an outstanding choice for SCOTUS. A protector of civil rights and individual liberties. He MUST get a vote. #Doyourjob!
Judge Garland is fair-minded & independent, a consensus #SCOTUS nom who should be confirmed without controversy https://t.co/NjqMNmtBgk
.@POTUS has fulfilled his constitutional duty–now Senate Republicans must fulfill theirs #DoYourJob https://t.co/YOJIzyl37F
I will not vote for this nominee to the Supreme Court. (3/3)
"Today, I am nominating Chief Judge Merrick Brian Garland to join the Supreme Court." —@POTUS #SCOTUSnominee https://t.co/ak7vqV9sCM
Obama introduces Merrick Garland to Americans: He was born and raised in the Land of Lincoln https://t.co/OdbwLwokxG https://t.co/cpoisYPr2z
"He led the investigation and supervised the prosecution that brought Timothy McVeigh to justice." —@POTUS on Merrick Garland #SCOTUSnominee
"Merrick Garland would take no chances that someone who murdered innocent Americans might go free on a technicality." —@POTUS #SCOTUSnominee
Now, @POTUS has done his job — it's time for Senate GOP to do theirs. We must give Judge Garland the hearings & consideration he deserves.
.@scotusnom Merrick Garland is a thoughtful jurist with impeccable credentials; if he can't get bipartisan support no one can. #DoYourJob
There's never been a #SCOTUSnominee w/ more fed. judicial experience than @SCOTUSnom Judge Garland. #DoYourJob Senate & give him a hearing.
Congratulations to #SCOTUSnominee Merrick Garland, HLS class of 1977 https://t.co/cpm9i82i8Q
Now, all one hundred members of the Senate must do our jobs by providing advice and consent on the President’s #SCOTUSnominee
I will oppose any hearing or votes for President Obama's nominee to the Supreme Court.
Leaders must listen to the voices of our people before allowing ambition and partisan politics to consume our democracy. #DoYourJob #SCOTUS
As I have said before, the Senate should not confirm a new Supreme Court justice until a new president is elected.
Hatch this morning: "It's not about the individual. It's about protecting the integrity of the Court." #SCOTUS https://t.co/yRcj1Kemd8
Judge Merrick Garland deserves a full and fair hearing and a clear, speedy, public vote from the U.S. Senate.
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"The American people may well elect a president who decides to nominate Judge Garland for Senate consideration," McConnell said. "The next president may also nominate someone very different. Either way, our view is this: Give the people a voice in the filling of this vacancy."

McConnell said he wouldn't even meet with Garland after hearing of the announcement.

But his Republican colleagues are at least a bit more open to meeting with Garland. The White House reportedly said that Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the powerful chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, would meet with Garland following the upcoming Senate recess.

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Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, Sen. Jeff Inhofe of Oklahoma, Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi, and Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio all said they would also be open to meeting with Garland. However, they didn't necessarily say they'd be open to ultimately holding a confirmation hearing for him.

Kirk, who is facing a tough reelection this year in a Democratic-leaning state, has perhaps gone the furthest of his entire caucus. He previously said he has a "duty as a senator to either vote in support or opposition" for whomever Obama nominated.

"The Senate's constitutionally defined role to provide advice and consent is as important as the president's role in proposing a nominee, and I will assess Judge Merrick Garland based on his record and qualifications," Kirk added Wednesday.

Check out Garland's emotional reaction after being nominated by Obama:

11 PHOTOS
Obama appoints new Supreme Court justice Merrick Garland
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Republicans rush to brand Obama's court pick a 'liberal' as cracks form in their ranks
Federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland, stands with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden as he is introduced as Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court during an announcement in the Rose Garden of the White House, in Washington, Wednesday, March 16, 2016. Garland, 63, is the chief judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, a court whose influence over federal policy and national security matters has made it a proving ground for potential Supreme Court justices. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland, right, shakes hands with with President Barack Obama as Vice President Joe Biden looks on as he is introduced as Obamaâs nominee for the Supreme Court during an announcement in the Rose Garden of the White House, on Wednesday, March 16, 2016, in Washington. Garland, 63, is the chief judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, a court whose influence over federal policy and national security matters has made it a proving ground for potential Supreme Court justices. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland, right, stands with President Barack Obama as he is introduced as Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court during an announcement in the Rose Garden of the White House, in Washington, Wednesday, March 16, 2016. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland, right, stands with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden as he is introduced as Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court during an announcement in the Rose Garden of the White House, in Washington, Wednesday, March 16, 2016. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, center, introduce Federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland, right, as Obamaâs nominee for the Supreme Court during an announcement in the Rose Garden of the White House, in Washington, Wednesday, March 16, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland, right, stands with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden as he is introduced as Obamaâs nominee for the Supreme Court during an announcement in the Rose Garden of the White House, on Wednesday, March 16, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland, walks out with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden as he is introduced as Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court during an announcement in the Rose Garden of the White House, in Washington, Wednesday, March 16, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
This photo provided by the U.S. Court of Appeals District of Columbia Circuit shows Chief Judge Merrick Garland in 2013, in Washington. (U.S. Court of Appeals District of Columbia Circuit via AP)
FILE - In this May 1, 2008 file photo, Judge Merrick B. Garland, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, is pictured before the start of a ceremony at the federal courthouse in Washington. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, the court's oldest member and leader of its liberal bloc, he is retiring. President Barack Obama now has his second high court opening to fill. The leading candidates to replace Stevens are Solicitor General Elena Kagan, 49, and federal appellate Judges Merrick Garland, 57, and Diane Wood, 59. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)
Deputy U.S. Attorney Merrick Garland, left, looks on as interim U.S. Attorney Patrick Ryan answers questions during a news conference Thursday May 18, 1995, following a preliminary hearing in El Reno, Okla., for Terry Nichols. A magistrate ruled that there was enough evidence to hold Nichols in prison. (AP Photo/David Longstreath)
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Others GOP senators, such as Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, signaled that they could be open to the confirmation process for Garland if he were nominated by Obama's successor in 2017. While Flake said he'd consider voting for Garland during the lame-duck session after the November election should Hillary Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner, be elected.

"For those of us who are concerned about the direction of the court and wanting at least a more centrist figure than between him and somebody that President Clinton might nominate, I think the choice is clear — in a lame duck," Flake told Politico.

"What's the point of falling on our swords if Trump's going to lose," one GOP lawmaker told The Hill anonymously.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid predicted in a statement that Republicans were "backing down so quickly that they're already bargaining about what month they will fully cave and confirm Judge Garland."

The cracks within McConnell's party aren't indicative that his plan will crumble. Indeed, no GOP senators have said they're actually willing to cast a vote for Garland. But Brian Deese, a senior adviser to Obama who led the White House's vetting process that picked Garland, said the Republican senators were showing a swift change of heart.

"I am old enough to remember a few weeks ago when Republicans said uniformly they wouldn't even meet with our nominee," Deese said in a Wednesday conference call with reporters.

He continued: "And just in the past hour since the President announced him in the Rose Garden, we've seen more than a handful of Republicans announce that they were willing to meet with our nominee."

Garland, 63, was nominated to the DC circuit court by former President Bill Clinton in 1997. Although he was confirmed by a 76-23 margin, both McConnell and Grassley voted against him at the time, according to Politico.

Seven current Senate Republicans did vote in favor of Garland — Collins, Cochran, Inhofe, Orrin Hatch of Utah, John McCain of Arizona, Dan Coats of Indiana, and Pat Roberts of Kansas.

Though Garland is seen by court-watchers as a centrist or center-left judge, he has also been known to swing to the right on criminal-law issues.

"To suggest that someone as qualified and respected as Merrick Garland doesn't even deserve a hearing, let alone an up-or-down vote to join an institution as important as our Supreme Court when two-thirds of Americans believe otherwise, that would be unprecedented," Obama said Wednesday in the Rose Garden while announcing his court nomination.

The president added: "It would be a betrayal of our best traditions and a betrayal of the vision of our founding documents."

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See Also:

SEE ALSO: 'I don't hold out great hope': Legal sphere responds to Merrick Garland's US Supreme Court tap


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