Senate

Graham: GOP has votes to confirm Trump's Supreme Court nominee before the election

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) predicted on Monday that Republicans will confirm President Trump's forthcoming nominee to fill the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Supreme Court seat before the November elections.

"I've seen this move before. It's not going to work. ... We've got the votes to confirm Justice Ginsburg's replacement before the election. We're going to move forward in the committee. We're going to report the nomination out of the committee to the floor of the United States Senate so we can vote before the election," Graham told Fox News. 

"We're going to have a process that you will be proud of. The nominee is going to be supported by every Republican in the Judiciary Committee. And we've got the votes to confirm the ... justice on the floor of the Senate before the election, and that's what is coming," he added. 

Graham's prediction comes as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) hasn't yet tipped his hand on if he will push for a vote before the Nov. 3 election or wait until the end-of-the-year lame-duck session, a strategy that could have risks for Republicans if Trump loses. 

McConnell, speaking from the Senate floor on Monday, only vowed that Trump's forthcoming nominee, whom the president is expected to name later this week, will get a vote on the Senate floor this year. 

"The Senate will vote on this nomination this year," McConnell said. 

If Democrats want to prevent McConnell from filling the seat, they will need to win over four GOP senators to vote against proceeding to the nomination. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), McConnell's No. 2, also stopped short of predicting Republicans would have at least 50 of their 53 members, noting the issue would be discussed at a closed-door caucus lunch on Tuesday. 

So far, two GOP senators - Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) - have said they don't think the Senate should take up the nomination before the elections.

But McConnell appears to have locked down other key swing votes, including institutionalists such as Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and vulnerable GOP incumbents such as Sens. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who both signaled support on Monday for filling a Supreme Court vacancy this year. 

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) is viewed as the last likely swing vote on the issue. Even if he came out against taking up the nomination before the election, that would still put the Senate at a 50-50 tie that Vice President Pence could break. 

Graham's position on the Supreme Court vacancy has come under scrutiny after a 2016 video went viral over the weekend of the GOP senator saying that a Supreme Court seat should not be filled during an election year. 

"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," he said four years ago when arguing against then-President Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland.

But Graham has argued that the contentious confirmation process in 2018 surrounding Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who faced allegations of sexual assault, changed his view of the court fight. 

Democrats on the Judiciary Committee sent Graham a letter over the weekend urging him to delay action on a Supreme Court nominee until a new Senate is sworn in next year.

Graham, however, rejected that request in a letter on Monday responding to committee Democrats, adding that he would "proceed expeditiously."

"I ... think it is important that we proceed expeditiously to process any nomination made by President Trump to fill this vacancy. I am certain if the shoe were on the other foot, you would do the same," Graham wrote in a letter to Democrats.

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