Graham under fire for voting for Biden judicial nominees

Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), who just took over as the top-ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, is coming under fire from a leading conservative judicial advocacy group after voting last week to advance a batch of President Biden’s judicial nominees.

Carrie Severino, the president of the Judicial Crisis Network, a leading conservative advocacy group, on Tuesday highlighted that Graham broke with every Republican on the Judiciary Committee last week to advance 12 of Biden’s judicial nominees, including Bradley Garcia, whom Biden nominated to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and who could be a future Supreme Court pick.

“If the tables were turned, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where a Democrat would break ranks like this,” Severino tweeted.

“I hope that what we saw last week is not a preview of what we can expect from Graham as ranking member for the next two years,” she added.

Graham has long prided himself on his bipartisan approach to confirming judicial nominees, often telling reporters that a president has the right to choose the nominees he wants as long as they are qualified and that “elections have consequences.”

But that collegial approach to Biden’s nominees is raising a red flag with conservatives who worry that Graham may be paving the way for Biden to add another liberal jurist in the mold of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court.

Severino in a follow-up interview with The Hill said that Garcia, who would become the first Latino to serve on the D.C. Circuit, is backed by dark-money liberal groups and has views on religious liberty that raise concerns.

She also criticized the nominee in July for serving as the counsel of record in June Medical v. Russo, challenging Louisiana’s law requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

The First Liberty Institute, an organization dedicated to defending religious liberty, said if Garcia’s legal theories presented in the case Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrisey-Berru had been adopted by the Supreme Court, “the door would have opened wide for interference with the independent employment decisions of religious schools.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), who last year served as the ranking GOP lawmaker on the Judiciary panel, grilled Garcia in a questionnaire over having “litigated against Catholic elementary schools” while in private practice by arguing federal courts have the power to intervene in employment decisions involving teachers at religious schools.

Grassley last year also challenged Garcia’s argument in a gun rights case that the Second Amendment’s protections are limited when it comes to firearms training.

Severino said the nominee defended the constitutionality of a ban on transporting handguns outside New York City.

Graham replaced Grassley as the panel’s top-ranking Republican because of term limits set by Senate Republican Conference rules.

Severino noted that when Republicans tried to confirm then-President George W. Bush’s nominee Miguel Estrada as the first Latino member of the D.C. Circuit in 2001, Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee, including Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), who now serves as the Judiciary Committee chairman, blocked him.

Graham urged his Republican colleagues on the Judiciary panel to work with Democrats to move Biden’s nominees.

“Elections have consequences,” Graham said at the committee’s first hearing on judicial nominees last month. “Let’s work together, and we’ll get some nominations moving in the spirit of what we did in the last Congress.”

Graham had voted for every Supreme Court nominee — from Republican and Democratic presidents alike — that came before him until he voted against Jackson last year.

He said the Democrats’ harsh treatment of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in 2018 had changed his view of the judicial confirmation process.

Severino on Tuesday questioned whether Graham is now returning to the cordial position he previously took on Democratic judicial nominees.

“Sen. Graham said in 2018 that the Left ‘brought out a new side in him.’ But did they really?” she tweeted.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.