He helped block Merrick Garland and dozens of other judicial nominees.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) complained on Thursday that partisanship has taken over the judicial confirmation process — just four years after helping to block former President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland from even getting a vote.
"Now we find ourselves in a situation where qualifications no longer matter. It is about holding open seats to have them filled after the next election," Graham charged as the Senate Judiciary Committee he chairs rammed through a Supreme Court nominee without a single Democratic vote. "We have lost sight that the individuals nominated matter. I think they do matter."
Graham was angry that Democrats on the committee boycotted the vote and have opposed rushing through a replacement for the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg just days before the 2020 elections.
But four years ago, Graham was very much for holding judicial seats open until after the 2016 election.
After Justice Antonin Scalia died that February, Senate Republicans quickly announced that they would block any Obama nominee from getting a hearing or a vote. Graham and 10 other Judiciary Committee Republicans wrote that month that they would "withhold consent on any nominee to the Supreme Court submitted by this President to fill Justice Scalia's vacancy."
"As we mourn the tragic loss of Justice Antonin Scalia, and celebrate his life’s work, the American people are presented with an exceedingly rare opportunity to decide, in a very real and concrete way, the direction the Court will take over the next generation. We believe The People should have this opportunity,” they said.
A month later, Graham falsely promised to treat future vacancies the same way, regardless of party. "I want you to use my words against me," he said during a Senate hearing in March 2016. "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.'" He reiterated that view in 2018.
A Graham spokesperson did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story.
Garland was blocked after enduring the longest such wait in U.S. history and Graham voted to instead confirm Neil Gorsuch to the seat in April 2017.
But it was not just the Supreme Court seat that Senate Republicans refused to fill.
Over the final two years of Obama's presidency, he nominated 70 people to federal judgeships — every one rated as qualified by the nonpartisan American Bar Association, a status Graham himself has called the "gold standard." The GOP majority confirmed just 20 of them.
Since 2017, Graham and the Republican Senate have confirmed more than 215 Donald Trump nominees to lifetime judgeships. At least seven of those were deemed by the American Bar Association to be "not qualified," but Graham backed their confirmations anyway.
With Graham's support, the Judiciary Committee voted 12-to-0 to endorse Judge Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation on Thursday, with all 10 Democrats absent.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.