Garland's impact on the court is likely to be far-reaching, particularly because the court has veered to the right in recent decades--including in regard to its ever-increasing docket of cases related to business issues.
Garland, 63, the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, would replace justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February. His court is perhaps the most important appeals court in the nation, responsible for hearing challenges to federal agency rulings, such as those involving net neutrality. Garland, widely viewed as a moderate with appeal across the political aisle, has street cred with conservatives as a tough law-and-order judge, although he has also angered some on the right for favoring some restrictions on gun ownership.
"He is the right man for the job, he deserves to be confirmed," Obama said in a press conference at the White House.
In a tearful speech accepting the nomination, Garland paid homage to his entrepreneurial father, who reportedly ran an advertising agency from the basement of their Chicagoland home.
"He impressed upon me the importance of hard work and fair dealing," Garland said.
Senate Republicans such as majority leader Mitch McConnell have said they would not consider any nominee put forward by the president, and instead would leave the vacancy open for the next president to fill. Nevertheless, Obama had been widely expected to name a candidate, perhaps one on the center or even toward the right side of the political spectrum.
That's important not only because the high court has a full slate of cases involving business issues in its upcoming term, but because businesses cases are winding up more often in front of the Supreme Court, according to studies.
And the Court has ruled increasingly in favor of business interests over the last couple of decades, according to various experts and research. Of the 10 most business-friendly justices to serve on the Court between 1946 and 2011, the Minnesota Law Review finds, four are serving. (Scalia had been the fifth.)
Some recent landmark cases include Citizens United, a 2010 ruling that corporations could make unlimited donations to political campaigns, and the 2015 Hobby Lobby decision, which held that employers may opt out of the Affordable Care Act based on their religious beliefs. The Court also has issued rulings upholding arbitration, rather than court trials, in lawsuits filed against businesses, which tend to entail smaller rewards for damages. And it has handed down decisions that make it harder for people to certify for class actions, according to the The New York Times.
Garland's nomination is likely to be drawn out, and his chances of being confirmed are slim, political experts say. His name would first go to the Senate Judiciary Committee for a hearing, and then to the full Senate for a vote (approval would require a simple majority). Shortly after the White House news conference Wednesday, McConnell reportedly took to the Senate floor to say Garland would not be given a hearing.
Should he ultimately be confirmed, Garland could have a moderating influence on the Supreme Court's pro-business bent, according to some political experts. In his role as judge on the D.C. Circuit Court, he has, for example, tended to favor federal agency regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency, as well rulings from the National Labor Relations Board. He also has sided with employees on cases involving hostile work environments.
"Opinions and ideas and perspectives can be contagious, so when the makeup of the court changes, it can also tweak views of other members," says John Hudak, a senior fellow in governance studies at Brookings Institution, a centrist think tank.