Obama returns to law school to argue for his Supreme Court pick

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Who Is Merrick Garland and Why Is He Obama's Supreme Court Nominee?

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- President Barack Obama returns on Thursday to the University of Chicago Law School where he once taught to make the case for his U.S. Supreme Court nominee, centrist appellate judge Merrick Garland.

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The town hall event with students and faculty at 2:30 p.m. CDT (1930 GMT) is part of a White House campaign to try to pressure the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate to approve Garland, 63, who grew up in a Chicago suburb.

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Obama returns to law school to argue for his Supreme Court pick
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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It is an uphill battle. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has insisted the next president, who will take office on Jan. 20 after the Nov. 8 election, should fill the vacancy created by the Feb. 13 death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia.

If Garland were confirmed, he would tilt the Supreme Court to the left for the first time in decades. The court is now split 4-4 between conservatives and liberals.

Data curated by InsideGov

So far, most Republican senators agree with McConnell. Only two of 54 Republican senators have said they think Garland deserves hearings and a vote.

Others have said they will meet with Garland privately for a "courtesy visit." That includes Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, who plans to have breakfast with Garland - but only to explain why he will not consider his nomination.

The White House wants to take the debate out of Washington. Opinion polls show a majority of Americans believe the Senate should vote on the nomination.

"The idea that they are not going to do their job just because Mitch McConnell told them not to, is not an explanation that is going to fly with their voters," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters on Wednesday.

Obama taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago for more than a decade before he entered politics. The town hall will include judges from the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and other local judges, the White House said.

"The president looks forward to visiting the institution that helped shape his dedication to the rule of law, the role of the presidency and his fidelity to the Constitution," the White House said.

Data curated by InsideGov
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