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Graham says he'd hold Supreme Court seat open if there is a vacancy in last year of Trump's term

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamBiden's Cabinet a battleground for future GOP White House hopefuls Republicans ready to become deficit hawks again under a President Biden Let's give thanks to Republican defenders of democracy MORE (R-S.C.) on Wednesday said he would be willing to hold a Supreme Court seat open until after the election if there is a vacancy during the last year of President TrumpDonald John TrumpPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Sunday shows preview: US health officials brace for post-holiday COVID-19 surge MORE’s term.

The remarks came after an audience booed and jeered at him as he defended Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. 

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“This may make you feel better, but I really don’t care,” Graham said. “If an opening comes in the last year of President Trump’s term, and the primary process has started, we’ll wait until the next election.”

The remarks referenced the blockade by GOP senators in 2016 of Merrick GarlandMerrick Brian GarlandFeinstein departure from top post sets stage for Judiciary fight McConnell pushed Trump to nominate Barrett on the night of Ginsburg's death: report Feinstein to step down as top Democrat on Judiciary Committee MORE, former President Obama's nominee to the Supreme Court to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

Garland was nominated on March 16, 2016, but never received a hearing or vote from Republicans then controlling the Senate.

“If you look back at 100 years, no one has been replaced under that circumstance,” Graham told Atlantic editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg in the interview at the Atlantic Ideas Festival. “I felt like I was doing the traditional thing there.”

Graham said that he has “honored” Democrats’ Supreme Court picks in the past, a comment that caused the audience to laugh and jeer. Graham voted to confirm Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, both Obama nominees.

“I’m a conservative, proud of it, want conservative judges on the court when it’s our turn to pick,” he said. “When it’s their turn, I’ve honored their picks.”

Earlier in the conversation, Graham defended Kavanaugh and tore into Democrats, accusing them of destroying the judge's life with the sexual assault allegations and saying they should just “vote against him.” 

“Enough, enough, enough. Vote against him, I really don’t care,” he said. “Vote, don’t destroy this man’s life because what goes around comes around.”