When the Senate confirmation hearings for Merrick Garland to be Joe Biden’s pick for Attorney General kicked off, we quickly learned that there were a number of public policy topics that he’s “never given much thought to,” and didn’t have any opinions to share. Those included issues of illegal immigration and whether or not transgender athletes should be able to compete in girls’ and women’s sports. As the hearings continued, there emerged even more topics that Garland professes to not know very much about. This time the questions dealt with the Second Amendment and the limits of the President’s power to infringe on those rights via the pen and the phone. When Ted Cruz pressed him on some specifics, Garland claimed to be “unfamiliar” with the subject and said that he “cannot offer an opinion.” (Free Beacon)
President Joe Biden’s pick for the top law enforcement post in America told the Senate that he is uninformed about important gun issues, as he faces what could be a close confirmation vote.
Merrick Garland told Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) he was unfamiliar with key gun policy areas in written answers made public Wednesday night. He said he did not know enough about the topic to say whether Biden could unilaterally deny gun sales by permanently delaying background checks. He used the same explanation when asked if Biden could ban the sale of popular rifles like the AR-15—something Biden promised to make law during his campaign.
“I am unfamiliar with this issue and cannot offer an opinion on that question,” Garland said of the unilateral AR-15 ban.
These answers conflict with statements Garland made in February, suggesting that there were changes to gun control policy that Biden could make unilaterally without the need for new legislation from Congress. But now he’s saying that he really doesn’t know what, if any limits there are to the President’s powers in that regard. Just as a reminder, this guy has been on the bench on one of the most influential appeals courts in the country for decades and he came very close to making it onto the Supreme Court. And he hasn’t given any thought to the Second Amendment?
Garland similarly dodged a question about the death penalty. He said he had “developed concerns” over the procedure in recent years, but that was about it. We already know where Joe Biden stands on the subject and Garland will go along with whatever Biden says, so it seemed rather pointless to wiggle out of that one.
What Garland is doing here seems obvious. He doesn’t want to wade into any hot-button topics for fear of antagonizing the Senators from either party and giving some of them an excuse to not vote for him. He’s hardly the first cabinet nominee to play these games and he won’t be the last. But the guy is asking to be approved to be the chief law enforcement official in the country. If he’s really “never thought about” any of these questions and “doesn’t have an opinion” on them, how is he claiming to be qualified to do the job he’s asking for? That’s an awful lot of studying to have to do on day one to get up to speed.
Senator Tom Cotton (R – AR) has already begun pumping the brakes on Garland’s confirmation, insisting that more and better answers are needed. But it still doesn’t seem like he’ll be able to derail the confirmation entirely. Mitch McConnell has already said he plans to vote to confirm him and Chuck Grassley voted for him in committee. That’s really all he would need to avoid the optics of sending Kamala Harris down to break a tie to put him in at the Justice Department. But if these non-answers were to somehow convince both of them to vote no, we’d be back to waiting for Joe Manchin to make up his mind. This fight may not be quite over yet.