Senate Democrats are looking to rush through a confirmation hearing for President Joe Biden’s pick for attorney general, Merrick Garland, ahead of the partisan effort to impeach private citizen Donald Trump from an office he no longer holds.
However, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who remains the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman for now, is saying not so fast.
While Democrats now have control of the Senate, the 50-50 split creates an unusual scenario where the upper chamber has to pass a power-sharing deal, with Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., being the incoming committee chairman once that’s done.
“I find it regrettable that we have been unable to reach agreement on a timeline for processing this nomination,” Durbin said in a letter to his GOP colleague. “While I remain committed to working with you and Senator Grassley, the Committee’s incoming Ranking Member, to find bipartisan consensus on timing, there is simply no justification for delaying Judge Garland’s hearing any further.”
There is no excuse for Senate Judiciary Republicans to delay Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination to be the next Attorney General.
I’m calling on Sen. Graham—who is still Chair of the Committee even though his party is in the minority—to end this delay & schedule this hearing now. pic.twitter.com/k0Txqir4ri
— Senator Dick Durbin (@SenatorDurbin) February 1, 2021
Durbin warned Graham that if he doesn’t agree to his request, he is “prepared to take other steps to expedite the Senate’s consideration of Judge Garland’s nomination should his hearing not go forward on February 8.”
With an impeachment trial that 45 GOP senators see as unconstitutional set to begin on Feb. 9, Democrats want to pencil Garland in on Feb. 8.
In his own letter, Graham noted the “highly unusual” request and reminded Durbin that the last five attorney general nominees received two day hearings.
“I agree completely that Judge Garland deserves a hearing — even a prompt one,” Graham wrote. “However, as will be more fully stated, a one-day hearing as you are proposing the day before the impeachment trial of a former president is insufficient. The last five nominees to be attorney general all received two-day hearings.”
Justice Barrett wasn’t given a free pass on a routine 4-day hearing during her Supreme Court confirmation, and Judge Garland shouldn’t get one either on his nomination for Attorney General.
Read my full response to Senator Durbin about @senjudiciary hearing for the AG nominee. pic.twitter.com/b20CV3bTbn
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) February 2, 2021
While stating that he’s “very inclined to support Judge Garland,” Graham said he has many questions for him, “including how he intends to handle ongoing investigations at the Department of Justice as well as the threats of extremism on the far left and the far right.”
In early January, Graham responded in a tweet to reports that Biden was planning to tap Garland as attorney general to say: “If media reports are accurate, I believe Judge Garland would be a sound choice to be the next Attorney General. He is a man of great character, integrity, and tremendous competency in the law.”
But for the impeachment.
“The Senate is about to conduct its first ever impeachment trial of a former president, and only its fourth trial of a president, incumbent or not,” the letter continued. “Under the procedure the Senate has adopted, Donald Trump’s trial is set to start on February 9. But you want us to rush through Judge Garland’s hearing on February 8.”
Graham said impeachment “is no small thing,” and will require their complete focus.
“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,” he insisted, reminding Democrats that “governing requires trade-offs.”
“When the Senate’s focus is required to consider whether to bar a former president from being reelected, other business must stop,” he concluded. “Proceeding with the confirmation of an attorney general and the impeachment of a former president at the same time would give neither the attention required.”
Garland’s eventual fate will turn out better than in 2016, when then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., refused to hold a confirmation hearing for him after former President Barack Obama nominated the judge to fill the Supreme Court seat opening brought about by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
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