Lindsey Graham breaks with most Republican colleagues by supporting Biden judicial nominees

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With Democrats controlling the Senate, it comes as no surprise that President Biden has successfully nominated dozens of federal judges, but nearly all of those picks enjoyed the support of a high-profile Republican: Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

Graham, who until January was the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, voted in favor of all but three of Biden’s picks who have gone before the full Senate for votes. In two of those cases he did not vote at all, and he voted no in just one.

In a political environment that has become highly polarized – particularly when it comes to presidential nominations – Graham’s approach to judicial nominations harkens back to earlier times when judges were approved based on qualifications instead of ideologies. 

“When the president wins the White House, they have the right to pick the judges of their choosing,” a member of Graham’s office told Fox News, stating that the senator “believes the constitutional and historical standards are what should be used for judges.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, questions U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Oct. 27, 2021. 
(Tasos Katopodis/Pool via REUTERS)

The Republican Graham voted to confirm both Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, even though “he did not agree with them,” they added. “Only in the most unusual circumstances should you vote against a nominee.”

Graham spoke about this at the opening of the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett – the last high court selection made by former President Donald Trump.

Graham recalled how Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose death resulted in the vacancy filled by Barrett, was confirmed by a vote of 96-3. Despite already having a reputation as a liberal “icon,” Graham recalled that “just about every Republican voted for her. Similarly, he noted that the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia received even more votes.

The Senate ultimately confirmed Barrett with a vote of 52-48.

“I don’t know what happened between then and now,” Graham said at Barrett’s hearing, admitting that “we can all take some blame.”

“But I just want to remind everybody,” he continued, “that there was a time in this country where someone like Ruth Bader Ginsburg was seen by almost everybody as qualified for the position of being on the Supreme Court, understanding that she would have a different philosophy than many of the Republicans who voted for her.”

Of Biden’s judicial nominees, the one closest to garnering universal support was Judge Zahid Quraishi of the District of New Jersey, who was confirmed on June 10 with a vote of 81-16. That same month, District of Colorado Judge Regina Rodriguez received 72 votes, and District of New Jersey Judge Julien Xavier Neals got 66.

Julien Xavier Neals, nominee to be U.S. district judge for the District of New Jersey, testifies during his Senate confirmation hearing on April 28, 2021, in Washington, D.C. (Tom Williams-Pool/Getty Images)

Similarly, District of Virginia Judge Patricia Tolliver Giles and D.C. District Court Judge Florence Pan received 68 votes, and Federal Circuit Judge Tiffany Cunningham received 63 votes.

Judicial nominee Tiffany P. Cunningham prepares for her Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday, May 26, 2021.
(Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Graham is not the only Republican to support nearly every judicial selection. Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski have also voted in favor of almost everyone.

The only Biden judicial pick not to get any Republican support was Myrna Perez, who was nominated to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Perez was barely confirmed, as she only received 48 votes for and 43 against, with seven Republicans and two Democrats not voting.

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