President Barack Obama on Wednesday announced his nomination of federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court position left vacant by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia a month ago.
Obama spoke Wednesday morning in the White House Rose Garden.
"This is not a responsibility that I take lightly," he said, adding that he spoke with a wide group of people ranging from advocacy groups to the Senate Judiciary Committee in his search for a new justice.
He said Garland is well-known in Democratic and Republican circles for his "decency, honesty, integrity (and) even-handedness."
"He's shown a rare ability to bring together odd couples, assemble odd coalitions," he said. "Throughout his jurisprudence runs a common thread: a dedication to protect the rights of every American."
Garland's name was mentioned by both Democrat and Republican senators who spoke with the president in the lead-up to Wednesday's announcement, Obama said.
"He is the right man for the job," he said. "He deserves to be confirmed. I could not be prouder of the work that he has already done on behalf of the American people. He deserves our thanks and he deserves a fair hearing."
In a voice shaky with emotion, Garland called the nomination the "greatest honor of my life," besides his marriage.
"For me there could be no higher public service than serving on the Supreme Court," he said. "Fidelity to the Constuitution and the law has been the cornerstone to my professional life. And it's the hallmark of the type of judge I've tried to be. ... (If confirmed) I promise to continue on that course."
An hour before his announcement, The Associated Press reported that Garland, chief justice for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, would be the nominee. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, confirmed the nominee's name, according to Reuters.
Republicans wasted no time responding to news of the nomination. Speaking from the Senate floor, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell accused Obama of obviously politicizing the Supreme Court seat.
"It seems clear that President Obama made his nomination not with the intent of seeing the nominee confirmed but in order to politicize him for the purpose of the election," he said.
Earlier Wednesday, the president announced his intention to reveal his nominee in an email to supporters.
He said his search was focused on three main criteria: a potential justice's "rigorous intellect," his or her ability to recognize the limits of the Supreme Court's role and a "keen understanding that justice is not about abstract legal theory, nor some footnote in a dusty casebook."
He appeared to anticipate continued pushback from Republican lawmakers, some of whom have said that they will not support Obama's nominee and encouraged him to wait for the next president to decide who will fill the vacancy.
"I'm confident you'll share my conviction that this American is not only eminently qualified to be a Supreme Court Justice, but deserves a fair hearing, and an up-or-down vote," Obama wrote.
"In putting forward a nominee today, I am fulfilling my constitutional duty. I'm doing my job. I hope that our senators will do their jobs, and move quickly to consider my nominee. That is what the Constitution dictates, and that's what the American people expect and deserve from their leaders."