Like every other Republican senator on the Senate Judiciary Committee, South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham is on board with his party’s unprecedented blockade strategy towards the Supreme Court. No matter who President Obama nominates for the court’s vacancy, Graham supports ignoring him or her – no hearing, no vote, and no confirmation, regardless of qualifications or merit.
Republicans have experimented with different excuses to rationalize such a scandalous abuse. First they made up “rules” that didn’t exist. Then GOP senators pointed to “traditions” that existed only in their imaginations. They tried to cling to a speech Vice President Biden delivered in 1992, but that ended up proving the opposite of their intended point.
But Graham thinks he’s found a better defense for the indefensible: revenge. The GOP senator told the New York Times yesterday that his party’s ridiculous gambit is justified because it represents payback.
[Graham] said the court fight was payback for the 2013 decision by Senate Democrats to unilaterally change Senate rules to make it easier to break Republican filibusters against executive branch nominations. They then pushed more Obama administration nominees onto the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, perhaps the most important court below the Supreme Court.“This is the consequence of an abuse of power,” Mr. Graham said. “Don’t ask for fairness if you are not going to give it.”
At a certain level, I can appreciate the broader idea of revenge, but in this case, Graham’s argument is demonstrably ridiculous.
Perhaps the senator needs a refresher about the events of 2013. At the time there were multiple vacancies on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, one of the nation’s most important benches, and President Obama nominated three qualified jurists, each of whom enjoyed majority support in the Senate.
Republicans in the chamber, however, blocked the trio, filibustering each of the nominations.
GOP senators didn’t raise any specific objections to the nominees, but rather, said they didn’t want President Obama to appoint anyone to the appellate court, ever. Republicans presented a demand never before heard in American history: the Senate must ignore the vacancies on one of the nation’s most important courts, indefinitely, because a minority of the chamber says so.
When Democrats noted how insane that was, GOP senators, including Lindsey Graham, effectively dared the majority to do something about it.
So, left with no choice, the Democratic majority restored the rules to reflect the way the Senate used to function before the radicalization of Republican politics: judicial nominees for district and appellate courts can now be confirmed by majority rule. This was achieved through a maneuver known as the “nuclear option” – a strategy Republican senators themselves crafted a decade earlier.
Nearly three years later, Lindsey Graham looks at those developments as a reason to impose yet another unprecedented judicial blockade. To the extent that reality matters, this is madness. The senator wants there to be “consequences” for “abuses of power,” but his partisanship blinds him to the obvious facts: it was Republicans who were the abusers in 2013, not the abused.
Graham looks back at the events surrounding the “nuclear option” and sees his party as the victim, when in reality, Republicans were the aggressors. They picked an outrageous fight, lost, and now see their failed tantrum as a rationale for another tantrum.
Even by today’s standards, that’s bonkers.