Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham once dared Americans to “use my words against me” during March 2016 remarks in which he declared the next president—regardless of party—would not fill a Supreme Court vacancy during the final year of their first term.
The South Carolina senator is among several Republicans, including Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, who once vowed to block any Supreme Court nomination even if a Republican took office in November 2016. Graham on at least two occasions—once in March 2016 during Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation hearings, and again in 2018 during Brett Kavanaugh’s hearings—defended Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for blocking then-President Barack Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland. Senate Republicans refused to call a vote or even hear discussion of Garland’s nomination after the February 2016 death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
“It has been 80 years since a Supreme Court vacancy was nominated and confirmed in an election year. There is a long tradition that you don’t do this in an election year,” Cruz said just days after the February 2016 death of Scalia.
Graham made clear he will likely backtrack on this 2016 vow, with the GOP senator saying Friday evening, “after [Brett] Kavanaugh, the rules have changed, as far as I’m concerned.”
“I want you to use my words against me. If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination." pic.twitter.com/quD1K5j9pz
— Vanita Gupta (@vanitaguptaCR) September 19, 2020
Congressional Democrats say Senate Republicans flip-flopped on the appropriateness of filling a Supreme Court seat during a presidential election year—something they declined to do in 2016, but appear set to do now with Trump after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death Friday.
Gorsuch was nominated soon after President Donald Trump was inaugurated, which concluded 11 months of Republicans stone-walling any Democratic nominee.
“I want you to use my words against me. If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say ‘Lindsey Graham said let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination,’ and you can use my words against me and you’d be absolutely right,” Graham said amid the 2016 GOP presidential primaries, one month after Scalia’s death.
“We’re setting a precedent here today, at least Republicans are, that in the last year that you’re not going to fill a vacancy of the Supreme Court based on what we’re doing here today,” Graham said during Gorsuch’s confirmation.
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