'Thank God you're not on the Supreme Court,' Cotton says to Garland

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) made the remark during a tense debate in which he attempted to link the Justice Department's new school board policy to an incident in Loudoun County, Va., in which a juvenile was accused of sexually abusing a fellow student in a school toilet.

On Wednesday, Attorney General Merrick Garland battled with Republican senators over the Justice Department's efforts to combat violent threats against school boards, with one GOP senator warning the former judge, "Thank God you're not on the Supreme Court."

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) made the remark during a tense debate in which he attempted to link the Justice Department's new school board policy to an incident in Loudoun County, Va., in which a juvenile was accused of sexually abusing a fellow student in a school toilet.

"This testimony, your directive, your performance is shameful," Cotton said. "Thank God, you're not on the Supreme Court. You should resign in disgrace, judge."

Cotton's remark occurred during a Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing, where Garland was grilled by Republicans about a letter issued earlier this month that offered federal aid to schools and local law enforcement in the wake of a spike in violent threats against educators and teachers.

Garland was a judge on the prestigious D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals before joining the Biden administration last year. Garland was nominated by former President Barack Obama to replace the Supreme Court seat left empty by Antonin Scalia's death in 2016, but the confirmation process was stalled owing to Republican resistance in the Senate.

Cotton was among the Republicans in 2016 to oppose confirming a Supreme Court justice during an election year. He also delayed Garland's confirmation as attorney general this year over criticisms about the then-judge's views on immigration.

Republicans have painted the school board policy as federal overreach intended to chill parents' dissent against local school policies.

Garland pushed back during the hearing on Wednesday and a House hearing last week, claiming that nothing in the department's memo could restrict parents' free speech rights and that it has nothing to do with the Loudoun County controversy, which has largely been treated as a local issue but has sparked widespread attention, including in the governor's race.

"This memorandum is not about parents being able to object in their school boards," Garland said. "They are protected by the First Amendment, as long as there are no threats of violence, they are completely protected. So parents can object to their school boards, about curriculum, about the treatment of their children, about school policies, all of that is 100 percent protected by the First Amendment and there is nothing in this memorandum contrary to that. We are only trying to prevent violence against school officials."

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