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Oklahoma City bombing anniversary invoked in fight over court nominee

WASHINGTON _ Senate Democrats used the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing on Tuesday to push for consideration of Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, prompting an angry response from Sen. James Lankford.

In speeches on the Senate floor, four Democrats talked about the bombing and then praised the work of Garland, who coordinated the investigation of the 1995 bombing and the prosecution of Timothy McVeigh. Garland, who worked then for the Justice Department, is a federal appeals court judge now and President Barack Obama's selection to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

Sen. Pat Leahy, of Vermont, who is the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Garland "helped oversee every aspect of the criminal investigation and response, and years later, he still considers his work in Oklahoma City the most important of his life.

“It is this dedicated public servant who is being denied a public hearing by Senate Republicans.”

During his floor remarks, Leahy displayed a large copy of the well-known photograph of an Oklahoma City firefighter holding the body of one-year-old Baylee Almon.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, of Nevada, and Sens. Patty Murray, of Washington, and Dick Durbin, of Illinois, also members of the Senate Democratic leadership team, made similar statements.

Murray said Garland "called his work for the Justice Department following the Oklahoma City bombing the most important thing he has ever done in his life. As we remember those who were lost on that day in 1995, and in light of last week being National Crime Victims Week, we remember how Judge Garland honored those victims with his dedicated service.”

In a statement to The Oklahoman, Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, said, "I was stunned to learn that some members of the Senate chose to use this day for political gain.

"The Oklahoma City bombing anniversary is a very sensitive day for Oklahomans. I am grateful for Judge Garland’s contribution to the prosecution and recovery of the bombing, along with thousands of others who came to Oklahoma in our time of need.

"But today is not about the Supreme Court, it’s about the victims, the survivors and the first responders. April 19 is a time to remember, not a time for political games.” 

Lankford and Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, have agreed to meet with Garland, nominated last month for the Supreme Court vacancy, but don't want the Senate to hold hearings or a confirmation vote. They contend that the next president should make the nomination after taking office next year.

Chris Casteel

Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. Casteel covered the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City. From 1990 through 2016, he was the... Read more ›