Democrats launch new push for Obama US Supreme Court nominee

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.

See images of Garland:

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Obama appoints new Supreme Court justice Merrick Garland
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Obama appoints new Supreme Court justice Merrick Garland
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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"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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