In the scorched-earth war that surrounds nominations to the U.S. Supreme Court, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham is ready to bring the fire.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death Friday at age 87 ignited a firestorm over the politics and policy of filling her vacant seat. Justices are nominated by a president and confirmed by the Senate.
Democrats have said any nomination should wait until after the election, in hopes that Democratic nominee Joe Biden will win. Many Republicans and President Donald Trump have vowed to move forward quickly.
The ramifications of a conservative justice ascending to the court are vast. Prior to Ginsburg’s death, the court had four-member liberal and conservative wings, with Chief Justice John Roberts often playing the role of swing vote. Replacing Ginsburg, a member of the liberal wing, with a conservative justice would give the court a conservative majority.
High stakes have produced intense rhetoric on the process, and during an appearance Monday on the Fox News show “Hannity,” Graham said he is not backing down.
“It’s pretty obvious that if they want an outcome, they’ll just destroy anybody’s life to keep the seats open,” said the South Carolina Republican, who faces a fight for re-election.
“They said they tried to destroy Brett Kavanaugh so they could fill the seat — they were dumb enough to say that,” Graham said, referencing the campaign of character assassination that Trump’s court nominee endured before his confirmation in 2018. “I’ve seen this movie before. It’s not going to work. It didn’t work with Kavanaugh.”
Graham said the bottom line is that despite apparent defections from Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Republicans can win this showdown.
“We’ve got the votes to confirm Justice Ginsburg’s replacement before the election,” he said. “We’re going to move forward in the committee. We’re going to report the nomination out of the committee to the floor of the United States Senate so we can vote before the election. That’s the constitutional process.”
Although Graham had said in the past that he supported waiting when a court vacancy took place in the final year of a president’s term, he said the outrageous conduct of Democrats out to destroy Kavanaugh forced him to reconsider his position.
“After Kavanaugh, everything changed with me,” the senator said. “They are not going to intimidate me, [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell or anybody else.”
He said Democrats can predict any doomsday scenario they want, but he knows what will take place once Trump issues his nomination, which is expected later this week.
“We’re going to have a process that you’ll be proud of. The nominee is going to be supported by every Republican on the Judiciary Committee, and we’ve got the votes to confirm the judge, the justice, on the floor of the Senate before the election,” Graham said. “And that’s what’s coming.”
The senator also issued a defense of his position on Twitter.
“Democrats chose to set in motion rules changes to stack the court at the Circuit level and they chose to try to destroy Brett Kavanaugh’s life to keep the Supreme Court seat open,” he said Sunday.
“You reap what you sow.”
Democrats chose to set in motion rules changes to stack the court at the Circuit level and they chose to try to destroy Brett Kavanaugh’s life to keep the Supreme Court seat open.
You reap what you sow.
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) September 20, 2020
Graham further noted that Democrats have transformed a process that should be based on intellect into one in which nominees are subject to destructive personal attacks.
“Name one liberal justice nominated by a Democrat that had their life ruined,” he said on Fox News.
He further explained the facts of political life in a letter to Democrats posted on the committee’s website.
“When the American people elected a Republican Senate majority in 2014, Americans did so because we committed to checking and balancing the end of President Obama’s lame duck presidency. We did so. We followed the precedent that the Senate has followed for 140 years: since the 1880s, no Senate has confirmed an opposite-party president’s Supreme Court nominee during an election year,” he wrote.
Graham went on to say that “after the treatment of Justice Kavanaugh I now have a different view of the judicial-confirmation process.”
“Compare the treatment of Robert Bork, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Brett Kavanaugh to that of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan, and it’s clear that there already is one set of rules for a Republican president and one set of rules for a Democrat president,” the senator said.
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