Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, rejected a Democratic request to schedule a confirmation hearing next week for President Biden’s pick to be attorney general Merrick Garland, citing the upcoming impeachment trial of Donald Trump.
While 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 as Mitch McConnell has refused to move forward with a power-sharing deal without a guarantee that Democrats would not get rid of the filibuster. That means the Senate panels are still operating under last year’s setup — in which Republicans had the majority.
Democratic Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the incoming committee chairman, sent a letter to Graham urging 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 Trump’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.
“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.