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Lindsey Graham manages to leave Merrick Garland hanging (again)

Lindsey Graham, who isn't even supposed to have a chairman's gavel, apparently has a knack for leaving Merrick Garland hanging -- both in 2016 and 2021.
Image: President-Elect Biden Announces His Key Justice Department Nominees
Federal Judge Merrick Garland delivers remarks after being nominated to be U.S. attorney general by President-elect Joe Biden at The Queen theater on Jan. 7, 2021 in Wilmington, Del.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Five years ago this month, then-Justice Antonin Scalia died unexpectedly, creating a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court. Then-President Barack Obama, with eight months remaining in his term, chose a compromise nominee -- Judge Merrick Garland -- after some Senate Republicans touted him as a consensus choice.

GOP senators nevertheless imposed an unprecedented blockade on his nomination. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), naturally, joined the partisan crusade, refusing to even give Garland the courtesy of a meeting.

The South Carolinian publicly committed at the time to treat a Republican president's nominee the same way, though Graham broke his word in 2020.

Now, the GOP senator is managing to mishandle a Garland nomination for the second time. Politico reported overnight:

GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham rejected a request Monday evening from incoming Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Dick Durbin to hold a confirmation hearing next week for Merrick Garland, President Joe Biden's pick to lead the Justice Department.

Durbin, who's supposed to be the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, formally asked Graham, who is -- but isn't supposed to be -- the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to schedule Garland's confirmation hearing for Monday, Feb. 8. Pointing to last month's attack on the U.S. Capitol, and the federal law enforcement reports, the Illinois Democrat added that delaying the confirmation of the next attorney general could undermine national security.

But Graham didn't budge, complaining about the impeachment trial that's scheduled to begin a day later. "Democrats do not get to score political points in an unprecedented act of political theater on one hand while also trying to claim the mantle of good government on the other," the Republican wrote in his response to Durbin.

To the extent that reality still has any meaning to Graham, the impeachment trial is not unprecedented -- other former officials have been subjected to such proceedings -- and nothing about the constitutional proceedings resemble "political theater." Senators, even Trump sycophants, are supposed to take the matter seriously, even if Graham doesn't want to.

For that matter, there's nothing contradictory about Democrats wanting to support the rule of law by confirming a qualified new attorney general and wanting to support the rule of law by holding a former president accountable for his actions.

As for why Graham remains the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, despite the fact that voters put Democrats in the majority, Republican Senate leaders still haven't agreed to an organizing resolution that would allow the Senate to function as intended. Georgia's special elections were held four weeks ago today, but the GOP leadership has largely frozen the chamber in place anyway.

It's not at all clear what's preventing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) from accepting an organizing resolution, even after a pair of Senate Democrats assured him that the legislative filibuster will remain intact for at least another two years.

It's worth emphasizing that Republicans don't appear likely to vote against Garland's attorney general nomination. On the contrary, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) suggested last week the Biden's choice for attorney general is very likely to be confirmed with bipartisan support.

But Graham, who isn't even supposed to have a gavel, apparently has a knack for leaving Merrick Garland hanging.