Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) on Feb. 1 denied a request from Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) to hold a Feb. 8 confirmation hearing for Merrick Garland, President Joe Biden’s nominee for attorney general.
Durbin had requested the Feb. 8 hearing in a letter and Graham responded with a missive of his own. Graham told his Democratic colleague that holding a hearing for Garland would not make sense on Feb. 8 since the Senate is preparing to hold the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump the next day on Feb. 9.
“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 Trump’s trial is set to start on February 9. But you want us to rush through Judge Garland’s hearing on February 8,” Graham wrote.
“An impeachment is no small thing. It requires the Senate’s complete focus. This is why I didn’t consider any judicial nominees during last year’s impeachment trial. Democrats do not get to score political points in an unprecedented act of political theater on one hand while also trying to claim the mantle of good government on the other.”
Democrats have the slimmest possible majority in the Senate but Graham is still the chairman of the Judiciary Committee because the two sides have not worked out a power-sharing deal. The leaders of the two parties appeared close to a deal last week after Sen. Mitch McConnell indicated that an impasse over preserving the legislative filibuster had been overcome.
In his letter to Graham, Durbin indicated that the two sides have not been able to reach a deal about the date for Garland’s confirmation hearing and argued that “there is simply no justification for delaying Judge Garland’s hearing any further.”
Republican and Democratic staff have had conversations about the date of the confirmation hearing since at least Jan. 14, according to Durbin’s letter.
“First, a February 8 hearing accommodates your desire not to hold a hearing on Judge Garland’s nomination during a day when the Senate will be conducting the impeachment trial of former President Trump,” Durbin wrote.
“Second, a February 8 hearing affords ample time to review Judge Garland’s record. In fact, the Committee has had access to the bulk of Judge Garland’s record since 2016, when he provided a Questionnaire and thousands of pages of materials in connection with his Supreme Court nomination.”
In response, Graham noted that the last five attorney general nominees had two-day hearings, not the one-day Durnin requested for Garland.
“Governing requires trade-offs. When the Senate’s focus is required to consider whether to bar a former president from being reelected, other business must stop. Proceeding with the confirmation of an attorney general and the impeachment of a former president at the same time would give neither the attention required,” Graham wrote.