But Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell has made clear the Senate should wait for the next president to make an appointment before hearings to confirm a nominee are held, essentially freezing Garland’s nomination in place.
So what happens to Garland’s nomination from here? Here’s what you need to know:
Q: First, let’s lay out the basics. How is a nominee confirmed to the Supreme Court?
A: Ultimately, the U.S. Senate holds a vote on whether or not to confirm the nominee. But before it gets to that point, the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee must vet the nominee first. They do that by meeting with him/her and by viewing his/her answers to the committee’s detailed questionnaire.
Typically, the committee then holds public hearings on the nominee, followed by the committee deciding whether or not to refer the nomination to the entire Senate. But in this instance, committee chairman Chuck Grassley has maintained that he will not hold a hearing on Garland, although he is meeting with the nominee himself.
Under normal circumstances, if the nomination does make it out of Judiciary and on to the Senate floor, the nominee needs 60 votes or more to beat a filibuster, during which one individual senator can block the vote from proceeding. To beat this filibuster -- which would in this case only happen if Republican leadership reversed itself and held a hearing and a vote -- Garland would need the support of at least 14 Republicans, which seems very unlikely.
Q: OK, so what is Garland going to be doing for the foreseeable future?
A: For the time being, Garland’s nomination is being politicized on Capitol Hill and on the 2016 campaign trail. While his nomination is stalled, Garland will continue to meet with senators -- both Democrat and Republican -- on Capitol Hill.
Q: OK, so let's play this out. Is there any chance Garland is confirmed if Hillary Clinton is elected?
A: We don’t know, but it is plausible that Republican leaders change their minds and decide to consider and confirm Garland in order to prevent a President Hillary Clinton from nominating a more liberal jurist. “It would be ironic if the next president happens to be a Democrat and chooses someone who is far to Judge Garland's left,” said Sen. Susan Collins, a moderate Republican and one of the few who supports a confirmation hearing and vote, after meeting with Garland Tuesday.