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Maryland lawmakers' reaction to Merrick Garland falls along party lines

Federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland listens as President Barack Obama nominates him 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 listens as President Barack Obama nominates him 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) (Evan Vucci / AP)

Maryland's mostly Democratic congressional delegation offered strong words of support on Wednesday for President Barack Obama's nominee to the Supreme Court, and its members called on Republican leaders in the Senate to schedule a confirmation hearing.

But Republicans, including Rep. Andy Harris of Baltimore County, held fast to an earlier argument that the Senate should not schedule a hearing for Circuit Court Judge Merrick B. Garland until after the November election at the earliest.

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Garland, a 63-year-old Bethesda man, has served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit for 19 years, and was confirmed by a 76-23 vote in the Senate in 1997. President Barack Obama, who announced Garland's nomination in the Rose Garden on Wednesday, described Garland as "one of America's sharpest legal minds."

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski spoke with Garland on Wednesday and in a statement described his career as having been "consistent and unfailing in his public service." An aide said Mikulski expects to meet with Garland in coming weeks.

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"The Senate must perform its duty and do our jobs as mandated by the Constitution," Mikulski said. "I urge my colleagues to do their jobs by following the Constitution and living up to the Constitution. So let's open our doors to meet with his nominee. Let's hold a hearing. Finally, let's hold a vote on the Senate floor."

Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin, also a Democrat, agreed.

"The United States Supreme Court affects the lives of every American and they deserve to have a Supreme Court that is fully operational," said Cardin, adding that he attended the announcement at the White House. "I look forward to Chief Judge Garland's confirmation hearings so that I, and the American public, can learn even more about him."

Harris, the state's sole Republican in Congress, represented a view shared by most Senate Republicans on Wednesday, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

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"Once again President Obama is playing politics with the future of this country by attempting to force the Senate to confirm a liberal Washington insider to the Supreme Court," Harris said in a statement. "The Supreme Court is a lifetime appointment and the American people should not be denied a say in the direction the court will take for decades to come."

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