Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk broke against his party and is set to become the first Republican senator to meet with Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee, on Tuesday, his office confirmed with MSNBC on Friday. The announcement comes a week after Kirk took a shot at his Republican colleagues for refusing to hold a Senate hearing and vote on Garland. Obama tapped the 63-year-old chief judge of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to replace the late Antonin Scalia, who passed away last month.
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Kirk's office said more details about the meeting will be released on Monday and that the senator wants to know where Garland stands. The meeting was first reported by the Chicago Sun-Times.
In an interview with Chicago’s WLS-AM last week Friday, Kirk, who faces a tough re-election fight, called on Republicans to "man up and cast a vote" because "the president has already laid out a nominee."
"For me, I’m open to see him, talk to him and ask for his views on the Constitution. Your whole job is to either say yes or no and explain why," he added.
Just hours after Scalia's passing, GOP lawmakers and presidential candidates pledged to block any move by Obama to replace the conservative judge. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republican leaders have repeatedly said that the vacancy should be not be filled until the president's successor takes office in January 2017, and they will therefore not hold hearings to consider Garland’s nomination. Democrats have rebuked their refusal.
A few GOP lawmakers have said they would at least meet with Garland, including Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, who is also facing a tough re-election bid.