Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) — a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which typically hosts hearings on Supreme Court nominees — said Thursday that it’s “going to be the new rule” that the Senate blocks any nominee that would fill a Supreme Court vacancy that opened within a year before a presidential election.
“We are setting a precedent today. That in the last year of a lame-duck eight-year term that you cannot fill a vacancy in the Supreme Court,” Graham said at a Judiciary Committee meeting Thursday. “Based on what we’re doing here today. That’s going to be the new rule.”
His characterization of the tactic Senate Republicans were taking in vowing to not even to meet with a Supreme Court nominee this year was a shift from how some Republicans initially described it — that it was a “tradition.”
Since the Judiciary Committee began holding hearings for Supreme Court nominations, it has never refused to hold a hearing for a nominee.
Thursday’s Judiciary Committee meeting marked the first major opportunity for a public confrontation of Republicans’ vow not to even consider President Obama’s yet-to-be-name nominee to succeed the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Republicans insist that they will only confirm a nominee who is chosen by the next president.
The White House, meanwhile, is going forward with its end of the process and is expected to name a nominee in the coming days.
In his remarks Thursday, Graham promised that if a vacancy opened up under a Republican president in the last year of his or her term, he would also refuse to consider a nominee. He also said he would vote to confirm the nominee offered by the next president if that president was a Democrat, as long as nominee was qualified — and even if the nominee was a liberal judge.