At this point, there’s really no question about the Republicans’ craven political ambition. When a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court opened up during the final year of President Barack Obama’s time in office, Senate Republicans, who were in the majority in the chamber, blatantly refused to hold any hearings for the judge that Obama nominated to fill the seat, Merrick Garland. There was no precedent for blocking a president’s Supreme Court nominee, although Republicans claimed otherwise, pointing to the then-imminent presidential election. But now, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has switched his conviction — although there’s another imminent presidential election, he indicated that he’d be keen on ensuring that a Trump Supreme Court nominee got confirmed this year.
In an interview with the program Full Court Press with Greta Van Susteren that is slated to air on Sunday morning, Graham said:
‘Well, Merrick Garland was a different situation. You had the president of one party nominating, and you had the Senate in the hands of the other party. A situation where you’ve got them both would be different. I don’t want to speculate, but I think appointing judges is a high priority for me in 2020. If you look into the history of the country, there had not been an occasion where somebody was confirmed in a presidential election year after primary started when you had divided government.’
So in short, Graham is insisting that the deciding factor is, wait for it: political ambition. Yet, nowhere in the Constitution did the framers insist that presidents shall have the power to nominate judges to the national Supreme Court — unless the majority party in the Senate doesn’t like who the president happens to be or which political party they’re registered with. Neither the responsibilities of the president nor those of the Senate vaporize when someone like Graham in the Senate happens to dislike someone they’re supposed to work with.
Notably, Graham has actually previously expressed the exact opposite perspective in relation to Trump. In 2018, he commented:
‘If an opening comes in the last year of President Trump’s term and the primary process is started, we’ll wait for the next election.’
Senate Republicans have already rushed to prioritize Trump’s nominees for the federal judiciary. Although Americans are still dying from the Coronavirus at a rate of over a thousand a day on average, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) prioritized getting back to D.C. to confirm more of Trump’s judicial nominees after the Senate concluded their break amidst the sharpest spread of the virus.
‘As soon as we get back in session, we’ll start confirming judges again. We need to have hearings, and we need to confirm judges… The pandemic will not prevent us from achieving that goal. My motto for the year is leave no vacancy behind. That hasn’t changed.’
These Republican leaders have looked the other way amidst Trump’s increasingly deadly failures in the name of the political points of these judicial confirmations, who they hope will be able to shape the law in the GOP’s image.