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Graham signals support for confirming a Supreme Court nominee this year

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP governors move to cut unemployment benefits as debate rages over effects Trump critics push new direction for GOP Graham warns about trying to 'drive' Trump from GOP: 'Half the people will leave' MORE (R-S.C.) signaled he intends to support President TrumpDonald TrumpVirginia GOP gubernatorial nominee acknowledges Biden was 'legitimately' elected Biden meets with DACA recipients on immigration reform Overnight Health Care: States begin lifting mask mandates after new CDC guidance | Walmart, Trader Joe's will no longer require customers to wear masks | CDC finds Pfizer, Moderna vaccines 94 percent effective in health workers MORE and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFormer OMB pick Neera Tanden to serve as senior adviser to Biden Lawmakers reach agreement on bipartisan Jan. 6 commission The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Masks off: CDC greenlights return to normal for vaccinated Americans MORE (R-Ky.) in their efforts to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court this year after the death of Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgJudge Judy on expanding Supreme Court: 'It's a dumb idea' Court watchers buzz about Breyer's possible retirement Five hot-button issues Biden didn't mention in his address to Congress MORE on Friday. 

The South Carolina senator pointed to recent statements he's made saying that he would back the filling of a vacancy in 2020 before the election. 

“After Kavanaugh, the rules have changed as far as I'm concerned,” Graham said in an August article he highlighted, apparently referencing the acrimony over Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael Kavanaugh Klobuchar offers tribute to her father, who died Wednesday Conservative justices split in ruling for immigrant fighting deportation Supreme Court weighs whether to limit issuance of exemptions to biofuel blending requirements MORE’s confirmation in 2018. 

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Graham was a top supporter of Kavanaugh during his confirmation process, which it was upended by sexual assault allegations.

In an article from The Hill Graham referenced, the lawmaker said a vacancy in 2020 would be handled differently than in 2016, when the Senate GOP blocked a pick from former President Obama, because this year the same party controls the Senate and White House. 

“Well, Merrick GarlandMerrick GarlandSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Biden officials testify that white supremacists are greatest domestic security threat Watch live: Garland testifies before Senate panel on domestic extremism MORE was a different situation. You had the president of one party nominating, and you had the Senate in the hands of the other party. A situation where you've got them both would be different. I don't want to speculate, but I think appointing judges is a high priority for me in 2020,” Graham said in May.

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When asked for further comment, Graham’s office pointed to his tweet.

The South Carolina lawmaker expounded on the vacancy later in the day, blaming Democrats for changing Senate rules in explaining his reversal from 2016. Graham said he would back a nominee after Senate Democrats removed the 60-vote threshold for circuit court nominees (a move the GOP followed up for Supreme Court nominees in 2017) and worked to block Kavanaugh's confirmation over the sexual misconduct claims.

"The two biggest changes regarding the Senate and judicial confirmations that have occurred in the last decade have come from Democrats," he tweeted. "Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidBottom line Biden's first 100 days is stylistic 'antithesis' of Trump The Memo: Washington's fake debate on 'bipartisanship' MORE changed the rules to allow a simple majority vote for Circuit Court nominees dealing out the minority" and "Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerBiden 'encouraged' by meeting with congressional leaders on infrastructure Republicans welcome the chance to work with Democrats on a bipartisan infrastructure bill Cheney sideshow distracts from important battle over Democrats' partisan voting bill MORE and his friends in the liberal media conspired to destroy the life of Brett Kavanaugh and hold that Supreme Court seat open."

"In light of these two events, I will support President @realDonaldTrump in any effort to move forward regarding the recent vacancy created by the passing of Justice Ginsburg."

Graham’s remarks come after Democrats flooded social media with video of Graham from 2016 saying he’d uphold the same standard Republicans set that year in 2020. 

“I want you to use my words against me. If there's a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said let's let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination,” Graham said in the resurfaced video from 2016.

Graham, who is in a competitive reelection races, is just the latest of several GOP senators to say they would support efforts to fill the vacancy this year, and Trump and McConnell have already said they intend to move forward with a nominee.

“We were put in this position of power and importance to make decisions for the people who so proudly elected us, the most important of which has long been considered to be the selection of United States Supreme Court Justices. We have this obligation, without delay!” Trump tweeted Saturday

“I fully understand where President @realDonaldTrump is coming from,” Graham responded.

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The stance has infuriated Democrats, who are still smarting over McConnell’s efforts to prevent Garland, Obama’s 2016 nominee, from receiving a confirmation hearing after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. 

“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) tweeted, a verbatim remark from one McConnell gave in 2016 after Scalia’s death.