South Carolina Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott intend to join their colleagues in the Republican-controlled Senate to make things difficult for Merrick B. Garland, President Barack Obama’s nominee to serve on the Supreme Court.
“I believe that my duty is to the people of South Carolina; not to the president,” Scott said in a statement soon after Obama announced his pick in a Rose Garden ceremony at the White House on Wednesday morning. “As a result, I will not consider any Supreme Court nominee until after the country has elected our next president in November and they have taken office in January 2017.”
Graham, who started the day by tweeting about Republican front-runner Donald Trump with the hashtag #doesntknowwhatheistalkingabout, emphasized that American voters should vote in November’s election with an eye on the open seat.
The next president should fill the open seat on the Supreme Court, not a lame duck.
Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C.
“I strongly support giving the American people a voice in choosing the next Supreme Court nominee by electing a new president. The American people should choose wisely this November,” Graham said in his own statement. “As I have repeatedly stated, the election cycle is well under way and the precedent of the Senate is not to confirm a nominee at this stage in the process.”
Neither mentioned Garland by name in their statements. Obama hoped that by nominating the widely respected appeals court judge, whom he called “one of America’s sharpest legal minds,” some Republicans in the Senate would be open to consideration.
Garland, 63, has served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit since 1997. He was confirmed to the post with some Republican support on a 76-23 vote. Neither Graham nor Scott was serving in the Senate at the time.
“One thing I know for sure is that if the shoe was on the other foot, the Democratic leadership would not even entertain such an appointment coming from a Republican president,” Graham said in his statement.
Graham is one of only two current Republican senators who voted to confirm both of Obama’s prior Supreme Court nominations, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, causing some to speculate that he might be one of the few Senate Republicans open to compromise. The other was Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.
“I voted for Sotomayor and Kagan not because I would have picked them, but because I thought the president of the United States deserves the right to pick judges of their philosophy, and that goes with winning the White House,” Graham told his fellow members of the Senate Judiciary Committee last week.
I hope all Americans understand how important their vote is when it comes to picking a new Supreme Court justice.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
Although the confirmation will fall to the Senate, South Carolina’s delegation in the House of Representatives had plenty to say Wednesday as well.
“I would argue given the president’s track record, we have a responsibility not to confirm,” Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., said in an emailed statement, arguing that for the past seven years Obama “found every possible way to abuse his executive authority.”
Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., said the right to fill the vacancy should fall to the incoming president “as it has for 200 years.”
Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., said he supported the Senate majority standing firm in insisting the next president should fill the vacancy.
“A liberal appointee will reinterpret the Constitution beyond its meaning – denying citizens the right to vote for legislators to develop laws,” he said in a statement. “A conservative appointee, in the tradition of Justice Antonin Scalia, will promote the constitutional role of a justice to interpret law, not make law.”
The battle over the nomination is likely to last through Obama’s last year in the White House and the November election.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story wrongly described Rep. Jeff Duncan's statement about President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nomination. Duncan cited what he described as previous abuses of executive authority by Obama as reason not to move forward with the confirmation.