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GOP senator warns politicization over SCOTUS nominee will 'destroy the judiciary

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) encouraged his fellow lawmakers to avoid being so partisan in picking a new Supreme Court justice as "what we're doing is going to destroy the judiciary over time." (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) took a moment out of Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Grouch's confirmation hearing Monday to scold his fellow lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for playing partisan politics when it comes to nominating Supreme Court justices.

Graham, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, referred to the unanimous confirmation vote the late Justice Antonin Scalia received in 1986 and the nearly unanimous vote Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg received in 1993.

"I don't know how we got here as a nation," Graham said Monday. "How did we go from being able to understand that Scalia was a well-qualified conservative and Ginsburg was a well-qualified liberal and recognized that elections mattered?"

"Here's what I hope — that we turn around and go back to where we were because what we're doing is going to destroy the judiciary over time," Graham said.

The Republican lawmaker also spent time Monday defending his own controversial votes to confirm the more liberal Supreme Court Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor — even as he said he doesn't necessarily agree with their interpretation of the law.

"I thought they led exemplary lives, quite frankly," Graham said. "There were a lot of attacks on them that I didn't echo because I thought, 'give me a break.' Really, are these the two worst women in the world? They lead exemplary lives, are highly qualified and that's why I voted for them."

"I thought that's what we should be doing, but I'm beginning to wonder now how the game is played," he added.

Graham said he did question the Senate's decision to block former President Barack Obama's Supreme Court pick, Judge Merrick Garland. But  Graham said he pointed to comments made by then-Sen. Joe Biden in 1992 that suggested a Supreme Court nomination should come "after a campaign is over."

"The bottom line is, I have no doubt in my mind that if the shoe were on the other foot, the other side would have delayed the confirmation process until the next president was elected," he said. "So I don't feel like any injustice has been done to anybody here."

Graham, a former 2016 presidential contender, praised President Donald Trump for selecting Gorsuch for the high court. He contended that no matter who won the Republican primary, no one would have selected a better nominee who would "represent conservatism on the Supreme Court."

"If you believe this has been a great plan to get a Trump nominee on the court, then you have to believe Trump was going to win to begin with," Graham said.

He continued to laughter, "Obviously, I didn't believe that saying all the things I said."

"So Donald Trump deserves to be congratulated for listening to a lot of people and coming up with what I think is the best choice available to a Republican president in terms of nominating someone who is going to keep the conservative philosophy alive and well on the court," Graham said.

Graham also applauded Gorsuch's educational background and said that he should be proud of the way he's handled himself on the court.

"I just want you to know, from my point of view, you're every bit as qualified as Justices Sotomayor and Kagan. I think you're just as good a man as they are two fine women," Graham said.

[graphiq id="jJZnTAp8r2J" title="Neil Gorsuch" width="500" height="810" url="" ]

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