President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland as his Supreme Court choice to fill the vacancy of the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
“Today, I am nominating Chief Judge Merrick Brian Garland to join the Supreme Court,” Obama said Wednesday morning.
The president introduced his pick in the White House Rose Garden.
Garland’s nomination will likely trigger a showdown with Senate Republicans who have told the White House not to fill the vacancy during an election year.
“It seems clear that President Obama made this nomination not with the intent of seeing the nominee confirmed but in order to politicize it for purposes of the election …” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, citing the Biden Rule, when then-Sen. Joe Biden, a member of the Judiciary Committee, argued for putting off Supreme Court nominations.
Garland, 63, had been considered for previous Supreme Court vacancies. He is chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
“This is the greatest honor of my life …,” Garland said.
Garland led the investigation and oversaw the prosecution of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.
“This is not a responsibility I take lightly — it’s s decision that requires me to set aside short-term expediency or narrow politics,” Obama said.
The list of potential nominees had reportedly been narrowed to three appeals court judges: Garland; Sri Srinivasan, a judge on the same court as Garland; and Paul Watford of the appeals courts based in San Francisco.
The conservative Scalia died Feb. 13.
Without Scalia, the nine-member Supreme Court is made up of four liberals and four conservative justices.
Garland could swing the court to the left after decades in the other direction.
“People respect Merrick’s deep and abiding passion for protecting our most basic Constitutional rights,” Obama said.
The president also said that Garland had earned bipartisan respect and support.
Garland said of his possible new duties that “People must be confident a judge’s decisions are based on the law and only the law.”
Judges have to set aside personal views and preferences and “follow the law, not make it,” he said.
“If the senate sees fit to confirm me… I promise to continue on that course.”
Before becoming a judge in 1997, Garland served in the Justice Department as principal associate deputy attorney general and deputy assistant attorney general in the criminal division.
He was a federal prosecutor in the District of Columbia from 1989 to 1992 and a partner in the law firm of Arnold & Porter from 1985 to 1989 and from 1992 to 1993.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.