Why Lindsey Graham is the Guy Obama Needs to Please in Replacing Souter

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Both sides of the aisle spent all week lamenting/celebrating Arlen Specter’s party switch and the potential for a 60 vote Democratic majority in the Senate. But Specter’s swap leaves the Senate Judiciary Committee without its most prominent GOP moderate. In any other committee that wouldn’t matter but in the Judiciary Committee one minority vote is needed to report out nominees to the bench, from the committee’s rules:


The Chairman shall entertain a non-debatable motion to bring a matter before the Committee to a vote. If there is objection to bring the matter to a vote without further debate, a roll call vote of the Committee shall be taken, and debate shall be terminated if the motion to bring the matter to a vote without further debate passes with ten votes in the affirmative, one of which must be cast by the minority.

The current Republican Judiciary Committee members are: Orrin Hatch, Chuck Grassley, Jon Kyl, Jeff Sessions, Lindsey Graham, John Cornyn, and Tom Coburn (Roll Call is reporting that Hatch or Session — both conservatives — are Specter’s potential successors for the ranking slot). Most of these Republicans are pretty conservative save Graham, who was a member of the Gang of 14 which, you may remember, came up with the solution to avoid the nuclear option on judges. If Obama comes up with a nominee opposed by the right, Graham will be under a lot of pressure to block the appointment — esentially an insurmountable committee filibuster. Rahm may want to put Graham’s # on speed dial.

Our colleague Massimo Calabresi has this story on possible replacements and alongside of it our crack multimedia politics editor Caitlin Thomspon has a podcast where she interviews Amy Sullivan and me about the GOP and congressional fallout from Souter’s decision.

Commentator Petey05 via twitter says: Was worried by your article re: graham, so I got in touch with Sheldon Goldman, one of the country’s leading SCOTUS experts. “The minority can postpone cutting off debate for a few committee meetings but cannot do so indefinitely. Since the beginning of the 20th century all Supreme Court nominees have gotten out of committee,” even w/out votes as with Bork. Says he “cannot envision” a scenario in which parliamentary tricks could be pulled to keep this from happening.