WASHINGTON President Barack Obama's Supreme Court selection Merrick Garland on Tuesday resumed meetings with senators in a push to convince Republicans who have vowed to block the nomination to reverse course and hold confirmation hearings this year.
"It's crystal clear after talking to him that Judge Garland has both a brilliant legal mind and a heart of gold," New York Senator Chuck Schumer, the Senate's second-ranking Democrat, told reporters after huddling with the nominee.
Those qualities, Schumer predicted, will convince Republicans to launch the confirmation process required to elevate Garland, an appellate judge and former prosecutor, to the Supreme Court.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, backed by most of his fellow Republicans, has insisted the Supreme Court vacancy resulting from conservative Justice Antonin Scalia's Feb. 13 death be filled by whomever succeeds Obama next January after the Nov. 8 presidential election.
Garland on Tuesday also met with Senator Robert Casey in the Pennsylvania Democrat's office, and will continue a string of "courtesy calls" with Democrats.
"I hope that if we can stay at it, maybe we will get a breakthrough where folks (Republicans) will be willing not just to meet but to actually cast a vote" on Garland, Casey told reporters after the meeting.
Garland will hold private sessions with the relatively small number of the Senate's 54 Republicans who have agreed to meet him.
McConnell has pledged to prevent any Senate floor vote on confirming Garland and opposes Judiciary Committee hearings.
Garland, while considered a centrist, could tilt the Supreme Court to the left for the first time in decades.
Following Tuesday's bombings in Brussels that killed at least 30 people, Schumer noted Garland led the U.S. government's prosecution of the two men convicted in the 1995 Oklahoma City federal building bombing that killed 168 people.
"As someone who lives in New York who has experienced the horrors of terrorism close up and personal, the idea of having someone on the Supreme Court who understands those issues, as well as their horrible human effect, is very comforting," Schumer said.
If the Senate does not act on Garland, the court vacancy could remain unfilled at least until the early months of next year, leaving it divided between four liberal justices and four conservatives.
That creates the possibility of 4-4 split decisions, the first of which came on Tuesday and left in place a lower court ruling that two women could not sue a bank for loan discrimination.
(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Additional reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)