Democrats launch new push for Obama US Supreme Court nominee

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WASHINGTON, Sept 6 (Reuters) - Supporters of Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama's U.S. Supreme Court selection, on Tuesday launched a new push to persuade the Republican-led Senate to act on the nomination before the Nov. 8 presidential election, but their calls fell on deaf ears.

With senators returning to work after a seven-week summer recess, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid called the refusal of Republicans to consider Garland's nomination "disgusting and repugnant."

"Republicans have deadlocked our entire system of justice because of the Republican Senate's dysfunction," Reid said.

Obama's nomination of the moderate appeals court judge has been pending without action for 174 days, longer than any other Supreme Court nominee in U.S. history.

The U.S. Constitution gives the Senate the job of confirming a president's judicial nominees. In a move with little precedent in American history, Republicans led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have refused to take any action on Obama's nominee, insisting that Obama's successor make the pick.

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Obama appoints new Supreme Court justice Merrick Garland
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Obama appoints new Supreme Court justice Merrick Garland
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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"The Senate is returning from the longest recess in nearly half a century, and perhaps the Republican leadership was hoping that Americans had forgotten about the unprecedented obstruction of a Supreme Court nominee," said Senator Patrick Leahy, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

We Need Nine, a White House-allied group, will hold a news conference in front of the Supreme Court building on Wednesday with Democratic senators and lawyers who previously worked as clerks for Garland.

Republicans sounded unconvinced.

McConnell "has been crystal clear for the last seven months," an aide to the senator said on Tuesday. "The next president will select the nominee."

The nine-seat court has been one justice short since the February death of long-serving conservative Antonin Scalia. With four liberals and four conservatives now on the bench, an appointment by a Democratic president could end decades of conservative domination on the court.

The White House has called Garland's confirmation a top priority for the legislative work period that began on Tuesday and ends in early October.

In remarks last month, Republican Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley indicated he could be persuaded by a large number of senators to take action on Garland in a "lame duck" session immediately after the election. His panel would hold any confirmation hearings.

Some conservatives worry that if Democrat Hillary Clinton defeats Republican Donald Trump in the election, she would nominate someone more liberal than Garland.

But in a statement on Tuesday, Grassley reiterated that "the next president should choose Justice Scalia's replacement" and said his meetings with home-state voters during the recess "only bolstered the point that Iowans should have the opportunity to have a voice in the direction of the Supreme Court for the next 40 years."

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley. Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell and Richard Cowan)

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