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Graham shoots down request for Merrick Garland confirmation hearing Feb. 8

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham: Trump can make GOP bigger, stronger, or he 'could destroy it' Sunday shows preview: Manchin makes the rounds after pivotal role in coronavirus relief debate Georgia DA investigating Trump taps racketeering expert for probe: report MORE (R-S.C.) rejected a Democratic request on Monday to schedule a confirmation hearing next week for Merrick GarlandMerrick GarlandSenate to vote next week on Garland's AG nomination Biden's justice reform should influence prosecutor appointments Politics in the Department of Justice can be a good thing MORE, President Biden's pick to be attorney general.

Though Democrats have the Senate majority, Graham is still the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman because the chamber hasn't yet passed an organizing resolution for the 117th Congress. 

That means the Senate panels are still operating under last year's setup — in which Republicans had the majority.

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Graham's letter comes after Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinDemocrats near pressure point on nixing filibuster  Senate approves sweeping coronavirus measure in partisan vote Senate rejects Cruz effort to block stimulus checks for undocumented immigrants MORE (D-Ill.), the incoming committee chairman, urged him to schedule a hearing for Feb. 8, arguing that there was "simply no justification" for not scheduling it and hinting that behind-the-scenes talks were at an impasse.

But Graham, in his own letter, said Garland should have a two-day hearing and pointed to the upcoming impeachment trial, scheduled to start next week, as a roadblock. 

"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. Under the procedure the Senate has adopted, Donald TrumpDonald TrumpUS, South Korea reach agreement on cost-sharing for troops Graham: Trump can make GOP bigger, stronger, or he 'could destroy it' Biden nominates female generals whose promotions were reportedly delayed under Trump MORE’s trial is set to start on February 9. But you want us to rush through Judge Garland’s hearing on February 8. An impeachment is no small thing. It requires the Senate’s complete focus," Graham wrote. 

He added that Democrats "do not get to score political points" through the impeachment trial while "also trying to claim the mantle of good government." Graham also noted that the committee is missing paperwork from Garland. 

Under a pretrial deal reached by Senate leadership, Trump's impeachment trial will start as soon as Feb. 9. Democrats are hoping to be able to pass legislation and confirm nominations in the morning and hold the trial in the afternoon, but Republicans have warned they will block that from happening. 

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"I look forward to questioning Judge Garland and potentially supporting his nomination, but not on February 8. Governing requires trade-offs," Graham said.

It is unclear when the Senate will pass a power-sharing deal setting up how an evenly split chamber will operate.

Senate leaders indicated that they were close to an agreement last week after they defanged a fight over the legislative filibuster, but the Senate adjourned for the weekend without voting on a deal. 

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersLawmakers, activists remember civil rights icons to mark 'Bloody Sunday' Progressives' majority delusions politically costly Sinema pushes back on criticism of her vote against minimum wage MORE (I-Vt.),who is poised to become Senate Budget Committee chairman, told MSNBC that it could pass the Senate on Tuesday. Spokespeople for Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerManchin firm on support for filibuster, mulls making it 'a little bit more painful' to use Biden takes victory lap after Senate passes coronavirus relief package Lawmakers demand changes after National Guard troops at Capitol sickened from tainted food MORE (D-N.Y.) didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. 

The standoff between Graham and Durbin isn't the first time Garland has run into roadblocks from Senate Republicans. 

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In 2016, Senate Republicans, who held the majority at the time, refused to give Garland a hearing or a vote for his Supreme Court nomination, citing the looming presidential election.

In 2020, Senate Republicans set a new record for how close to a presidential election a Supreme Court nominee has been confirmed when they placed Justice Amy Coney BarrettAmy Coney BarrettWe need a voting rights workaround Barrett authors first Supreme Court majority opinion against environmental group Justices raise bar for noncitizens to challenge removal from US after conviction MORE on the bench. 

Once Garland's nomination is on the Senate floor, Democrats can confirm him over GOP objections. 

Durbin, in his letter, warned that if Graham refused to set up a Feb. 8 hearing, he could try to speed up Garland's confirmation. 

"Although I hope we can proceed in a bipartisan fashion, I am 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," Durbin wrote.