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Ayotte meets with Obama's Supreme Court nominee

New Hampshire Union Leader

April 13. 2016 9:26PM

Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s courtesy meeting with Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland lasted nearly an hour, and their discussion ranged from judicial philosophy to her opposition to the Senate holding confirmation hearings until “the people weigh in” at the ballot box this November.

Ayotte, a first-term Republican who is up for re-election this fall, said she was upfront with Garland about her views during the 50-minute meeting in her office.

“He certainly acknowledged that he understood my position,” she said in an interview Wednesday with the Union Leader. “It was a cordial and pleasant meeting. I thanked him for his service.”

The two discussed his judicial philosophy, the high court’s role in deciding constitutional questions, and some cases Garland presided over as chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Ayotte said she carved out time to sit down with Garland out of respect.

Democratic challenger Gov. Maggie Hassan called it a “sham meeting.”

“Senator Ayotte has been clear that she is only meeting with Judge Garland to tell him in person that she won’t even consider his nomination, an act that is disrespectful to Judge Garland’s years of service on the bench,” Hassan said in a statement.

Amidst a heated Senate race, Ayotte’s position has gotten both panned and praised in political ads paid for by independent, outside groups.

Asked about the nomination process with the Senate election as a backdrop, Ayotte replied, “Of course they’re going to play partisan politics with it.”

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, is calling for the Senate to have a confirmation hearing on Garland’s nomination.

She has said, “The idea that we should not do this in an election year is just something that’s been made up for partisan reasons.”

Ayotte, in the phone interview, stood her ground on the Senate Republican leadership opposing confirmation hearings.

“The constitution is not unilateral on this decision,” she said. “It says the President shall nominate, but that he may only appoint with the advice and consent of the Senate.”

Americans should have a voice in the nomination process because the justice will have a lifetime appointment, Ayotte said.

“I believe that having the people weigh in in November is the right thing to do, given that we’re in the midst of a vigorous presidential election,” she said.

The vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court, following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, looks to continue to be an issue raised in New Hampshire’s vigorous Senate election.

The New Hampshire Democratic Party produced a fake, satirical transcript of Ayotte’s meeting with Garland, which claimed the senator’s position is in lock step with party bosses.

The Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative group, issued a statement saying Ayotte shows “great courage” in standing against President Barack Obama’s choice of a liberal judge.

Shaheen met with Garland last week.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, met with Garland on Tuesday. He remains against holding confirmation hearings.

White House spokseman Keith Maley, director of regional media, called on Ayotte to cast an up or down vote on Garland’s nomination.

“Sen. Ayotte now owes the people of New Hampshire the same opportunity that she had today, to hear directly from Chief Judge Garland on his qualifications for the Supreme Court at a public confirmation hearing,” Maley said in a statement. “In supporting a hearing, followed by casting an up-or-down vote, she will join her Republican colleague in Maine, Sen. Susan Collins, and every one of her New England colleagues, in meeting the basic requirements of the job of a U.S. Senator.”

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