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Abner Mikva: Senate Republicans could find Supreme Court nominee after Garland even worse

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The Axe Files, featuring David Axelrod, is a podcast distributed by CNN and produced at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics. The author works at the institute.

Senate Republicans would be wise to confirm President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Justice Merrick Garland, says Abner Mikva, a former Democratic congressman, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals and White House counsel.

If GOP lawmakers stick to their current strategy of denying Garland hearings and a vote, the next nominee could be younger and more liberal, Mikva told David Axelrod on “The Axe Files,” a podcast produced by CNN and the University of Chicago Institute of Politics.

“I think in any event, after the election in November, assuming a Democrat wins, whether it’s Hillary or Bernie Sanders, the Republicans are going to look at what their options are in the lame duck session,” said Mikva, a longtime mentor and friend of Obama’s from his Chicago days. “And no matter what Sanders or Clinton say at that time, (Congress) has to be concerned that an appointment by either of them, if nothing else, will just be younger.”

Garland, 63, is older than recent appointees to the Court, Mikva noted. “If I were a President appointing with a free hand, … one of the issues I would take into account very seriously is age. Because the younger they are, the longer they serve,” Mikva continued.

Garland succeeded Mikva on the U.S. Court of Appeals. Mikva noted Garland’s bipartisan confirmation to his current post, in the late 1997. Mikva said he first met Garland in 1972, when the then-Harvard undergraduate was a volunteer on his congressional campaign.

“The pressure is going to mount” on Congress, and despite being nominated by a Democratic president, Garland should command bipartisan support, Mikva said. “It’s not that he’s part Democratic, part Republican, but that he doesn’t see politics as the way of moving things forward. That’s not what he does,” Mikva said.

And not moving forward with nomination hearings will set a dangerous precedent for the future, according to Mikva. “If you ever divide government, which happens quite frequently when the Presidency is in one party and the Senate is in another party, you will have no court, (and) it will be impossible to appoint anybody,” he said.

To hear the whole interview with Mikva, which also touched on his long career in public service, his thoughts on Hillary Clinton, and his sadness over the current state of politics today, click on http://podcast.cnn.com.

To get “The Axe Files” podcast every week, subscribe at http://itunes.com/theaxefiles.

By Lucy Little

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