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PHOTO ESSAY

The Obama Presidency

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Merrick Garland

President Obama and Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick B. Garland, meet in thr Oval Office (Pete Souza/Official White House Photo)

In his first term, President Obama successfully nominated two Supreme Court Justices: federal judge Sonia Sotomayor and Solicitor General Elena Kagan. Prior to Kagan's nomination, Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah had recommended Merrick Garland, a white, moderate and experienced federal judge, as a nominee who would be acceptable to Republicans. When conservative Justice Antonin Scalia died suddenly in February 2016, Obama duly nominated Garland as a consensus candidate who might win support in the GOP-controlled Senate. Garland, at 63, was much older than other likely candidates, such as federal judges Paul Watford (who was African American) or Indian American Sri Srinivasan. Both were 48 years old and could have been expected to serve two or three decades on the Court. Republicans, however, refused to even contemplate hearings on Garland. That decision left the Senate without a ninth member for more than a year, the longest a seat had been vacant for half a century. On January 31, 2017, newly elected Republican President Donald Trump nominated federal judge Neil Gorusch, who was the same age as Watford and Srinivasan, but was a conservative in the mold of Scalia. As of early 2017, it remained to be seen if Democrats in the Senate would seek to thwart Trump's nomination as Republicans had stymied Obama's.

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