- The Washington Times
Friday, May 20, 2016

Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, said Friday he has “real concerns” about President Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court, saying Judge Merrick Garland’s record on gun rights and environmental laws could be a problem.

Mr. Manchin, who regularly rates as one of the most centrist lawmakers in the deeply polarized Senate, defended his right to meet with Judge Garland — a step most Democrats are being pushed to take out of solidarity with Mr. Obama. And the senator said he supports the Senate moving Judge Garland through the confirmation process.

But in voicing concerns, he’s broken the united front Democrats have tried to portray in the court battle.

“I personally have real concerns about Judge Garland’s record, and I’d like the chance to hear every member of the Senate question him on the issues that matter to West Virginia, like our 2nd Amendment rights and his position on the Clean Power Plan,” Mr. Manchin said in a statement released by his office.

The White House and Senate Democrats have insisted they will be able to overcome a GOP blockade and force confirmation of Judge Garland, but have little to show for it so far.

Only two of the 54 Republican senators have said they want the process to move forward, suggesting a fairly unified front within the GOP. And Mr. Manchin’s comments show cracks within Democrats.

“In case anyone doubts my position, let me be very clear; especially to those outsiders who never grew up in West Virginia. If Judge Garland’s answers are vague, if he doesn’t make clear he will uphold the Constitution and act in West Virginia’s best interest, then I will vote against him — irrespective of what Democrats, the president, or anyone in Washington wants,” the senator said in his statement.

He was pushing back against an ad run by the Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative pressure group opposing Judge Garland’s confirmation. The ad accuses Mr. Manchin of trying to help Judge Garland get confirmed.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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