Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina speaks during a roundtable discussion on Capitol Hill on November 30, 2021.
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- Justice Stephen Breyer is reportedly retiring, and the Senate will now have to confirm his replacement.
- Democrats narrowly retain control of the 50-50 Senate, with VP Kamala Harris breaking any tied votes.
- “Elections have consequences” and Democrats likely won’t need Republican votes for Breyer’s replacement, Graham said.
Following reports that liberal Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer will retire at the end of this term, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said Democrats would likely be able to confirm his replacement without any Republican support, noting that “elections have consequences.”
“Justice Breyer has always shown great respect for the institution and his colleagues, and I wish him well in the next phase of his life,” said Graham in a statement, adding that he appreciates Breyer’s service while describing him as “a scholar and a gentleman.”
President Joe Biden on the campaign trail pledged to nominate the first-ever Black woman to the nation’s highest court. Potential candidates for the job include DC Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson and California state Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger.
With Senate Democrats narrowly retaining control of the evenly-divided chamber — Vice President Kamala Harris can break any tied votes — Graham noted that it’s possible for Biden’s nominee to be confirmed without the need for any Republican votes.
“As to his replacement: If all Democrats hang together – which I expect they will – they have the power to replace Justice Breyer in 2022 without one Republican vote in support. Elections have consequences, and that is most evident when it comes to fulfilling vacancies on the Supreme Court,” he added. Graham’s statement is notable, given his close relationship with former President Donald Trump.
—Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) January 26, 2022
In recent years, Supreme Court confirmation votes have become increasingly partisan. In 2016, then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell successfully blocked President Barack Obama from nominating a replacement after the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia died.
Trump, for his part, nominated three justices — Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett — to the court, giving the Supreme Court’s conservative wing a 6-3 majority.
While Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia was the only Democrat to vote for Kavanaugh, Gorsuch received three Democratic votes, including from Manchin and former Sens. Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. Barrett received no Democratic votes.
If Democrats are able to retain the support of the more moderate members of their caucus — particularly Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — then they will indeed not need any Republican votes to confirm Biden’s nominee.