Oops! Senator's article tells of phantom meeting with Obama nominee

Will GOP Even Consider Garland as Nominee?

WASHINGTON, May 26 (Reuters) - Republican U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch wrote in an opinion piece published on Thursday that his meeting with Merrick Garland failed to change his view that the Senate should not act on President Barack Obama's U.S. Supreme Court nominee.

The problem is that no such meeting had yet taken place. Later in the day, the Utah senator issued a statement announcing that he would meet with Garland on Thursday, calling the appeals court judge "an honorable public servant who deserves our respect" but reiterating that the Senate should not act now.

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Paul Edwards, executive editor of the Deseret News in Hatch's home state of Utah, said by email the article was a draft that was mistakenly published on newspaper's website, and apologized to Hatch and the newspaper's readers for "this unfortunate error."

"Like many of my Senate colleagues, I recently met with Chief Judge Merrick Garland," Hatch wrote in the piece.

"Our meeting, however, does not change my conviction that the Senate should consider a Supreme Court nominee after this presidential election cycle," Hatch added.

The 82-year-old Hatch, first elected to the Senate in 1976, is the longest-serving Senate Republican and is a long-time and influential member of the Judiciary Committee that considers Supreme Court nominees.

Hatch has joined with the Senate's Republican leaders in asserting that Obama's successor, to be determined in the Nov. 8 presidential election, should fill the vacancy left by the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia in February.

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Oops! Senator's article tells of phantom meeting with Obama nominee
FILE PHOTO -- U.S. President Barack Obama annnounces Judge Merrick Garland (R) of the United States Court of Appeals as his nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington March 16, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo
Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama's Supreme Court nominee, meets with Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 25, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama's Supreme Court nominee, meets with Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) (unseen) on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 25, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 16: U.S. President Barack Obama and Judge Merrick Garland, the president's nominee to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, walk into the Rose Garden at the White House, March 16, 2016 in Washington, DC. Merrick currently serves on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and if confirmed by the US Senate, would replace Antonin Scalia who died suddenly last month. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 16: Judge Merrick Garland speaks after being introduced by U.S. President Barack Obama as his nominee to the Supreme Court in the Rose Garden at the White House, March 16, 2016 in Washington, DC. Garland currently serves as the chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and if confirmed by the US Senate, would replace the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia who died suddenly last month. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
U.S. President Barack Obama, left, shakes hands with Merrick Garland, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, following the announcement of his nomination for the Supreme Court in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, March 16, 2016. The nomination escalates a battle that will dominate the final 10 months of Obama's presidency, as the White House is locked in an unprecedented dispute with Senate Republican leaders who have pledged to ignore the president's choice. Photographer: Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg via Getty Images
U.S. President Barack Obama, center, announces his nominee for the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, right, as Vice President Joseph 'Joe' Biden looks on in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, March 16, 2016. The nomination escalates a battle that will dominate the final 10 months of Obama's presidency, as the White House is locked in an unprecedented dispute with Senate Republican leaders who have pledged to ignore the president's choice. Photographer: Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg via Getty Images
US President Barack Obama joins his Supreme Court nominee, federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland (L), during the nomination announcement the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, March 16, 2016. Garland, 63, is currently Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The nomination sets the stage for an election-year showdown with Republicans who have made it clear they have no intention of holding hearings to vet any Supreme Court nominee put forward by the president. / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
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Democrats have accused Senate Republicans of ignoring their constitutional duties by refusing to consider Garland's nomination.

A copy of the article was archived by Google after the Deseret News removed it. "The electronic publication of this version, awaiting edits from the Senator following his meeting with Judge Garland, was inadvertent," Edwards added.

The article illustrated how unshakeable Republican opposition has been to Obama, a Democrat, appointing a replacement for Scalia. If a Democratic president appoints Scalia's replacement, that would likely end decades of a conservative majority on the court.

Obama nominated Garland on March 16.

Hatch helped break a partisan log jam in the Senate against Garland two decades ago when President Bill Clinton nominated him to an appeals court. Garland won Senate confirmation in 1997.

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