Mark Kirk on Tuesday became the first Republican senator to meet with Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, criticizing GOP leaders' refusal to hold confirmation hearings or a vote on the longtime federal judge and praising him as "one of the most eminent jurists in the country," the AP reports. There was no sign the session would erode Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's insistence on leaving the vacancy unfilled until President Obama's successor names a selection next year. Even so, Kirk's 20-minute session with Garland provided Democrats with a visual image—and words—that they hope will pressure other Republican senators to end their blockade.
Kirk, who represents Democratic-leaning Illinois, is perhaps the most imperiled Senate Republican facing re-election in November. He's one of just three Senate Republicans to say the Senate Judiciary Committee should hold hearings on Garland. And he's one of three GOP senators—along with Susan Collins of Maine and Jerry Moran of Kansas—to at least be open to a Senate vote on the nominee, saying Tuesday he would "obviously" consider voting for him. "By leading by example, I'm showing what a rational, responsible guy would do [who] really wants the constitutional process to go forward," Kirk said. (Read more US Supreme Court stories.)