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McConnell backs Garland's nomination for attorney general

Confirmation hearing for Merrick Garland begins
Confirmation hearing for Merrick Garland begi... 07:09

Washington — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will vote to confirm Merrick Garland as the next attorney general, five years after refusing to act on Garland's nomination to the Supreme Court.

A McConnell spokesperson confirmed to CBS News that the Kentucky Republican supports President Biden's pick to lead the Justice Department. Politico first reported his decision on Tuesday.

Garland was nominated to the Supreme Court by former President Barack Obama in 2016, after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. McConnell refused to consider Garland's nomination, arguing that the Senate should not fill a Supreme Court seat during an election year, and instead let the American people decide. After the GOP won the White House, the Republican-controlled Senate filled the vacant seat with Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch in 2017, the first of three justices nominated to the bench by former President Donald Trump.

McConnell has described his decision to block Garland's nomination as the "most consequential thing I've ever done." The Senate later confirmed Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the court days before the 2020 election.

Garland appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee for confirmation hearings this week. The committee will hold a vote to advance Garland's nomination on March 1.

The longtime federal judge pledged to senators during his confirmation hearings that he would work to maintain the independence of the Justice Department, and "fend off any effort by anyone to make prosecutions or investigations partisan or political in any way."

"I am not the president's lawyer," he said. "I am the United States' lawyer."

Some Republicans have already said that they would support Garland's nomination, including Senators Thom Tillis and John Cornyn.

"I think you'll be a straight shooter when it comes to questions of law. And I respect that. We need that," Cornyn, the former Republican whip and a close ally of McConnell's, told reporters on Monday.

Garland is currently a judge on the powerful D.C. Court of Appeals.

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