This Republican Could Play a Pivotal Role in the Supreme Court Showdown

Lindsey Graham


South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham is one to keep an eye on. 

Supreme Court Justice confirmations have gotten pretty ugly in recent decades, and they’ve often devolved into drawn-out partisan battles. But this time around could be different: A key Republican is already signaling support for one of President Biden’s picks.

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham is among a handful of Republicans who are willing to break from party lines and back Biden’s forthcoming nominee to replace Justice Stephen Breyer, who’s retiring at the end of this term. 

This comes as Biden plans to start interviewing candidates this week to fill the vacancy (so far, he has narrowed his search to four). Though the White House has been tight-lipped about the process, it acknowledged that South Carolina federal judge J. Michelle Childs is among the potential nominees. Others thought to be under serious consideration include California State Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger and Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. 

What’s GOP Senator Lindsey Graham saying?

Graham, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, has already taken a shine to Childs. While others in his party have mocked Biden’s promise to nominate a Black woman, the senator has been quick to defend the move, and says Child is someone he could see himself actually supporting. That’s because she is also from South Carolina like Graham, and she doesn’t come from a traditional Ivy League background like most of the justices.

If Childs wins the nomination, Graham also believes she could actually win majority support, and even bring more than 10 votes from Republican senators. “I think I can get some of my Republican colleagues to follow my lead, and wouldn’t it be something if the first African-American woman on the court was a South Carolinian,” Graham told WYFF.

Biden doesn’t technically need any Republican votes to confirm his nominee because Vice President Kamala Harris would cast the tie vote in the 50-50 Senate, but a GOP boost could make his nominee’s confirmation process go more smoothly.

How likely is Graham likely to follow through on supporting Biden’s choice?

Graham has already stated that if Childs doesn’t ultimately become the nominee, his vote will become “much more problematic.”

Graham has a long history of both working with Democrats and then toeing the party line. While he was the only Republican on the Judiciary Committee to vote for two of former President Obama’s Supreme Court nominees, Graham abandoned a promise to avoid confirming a justice in a presidential election year, and led GOP efforts to seat Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett on the court just days before Biden’s win in 2020. Since November’s election, Graham has voted for 30 of Biden’s judicial nominees. 

But Graham is hardly the only Republican who Democrats will be trying to win over in the Senate. In fact, Democratic Senator Dick Durbin says the list of Republicans willing to back Biden’s eventual nominee to the Supreme Court is already “longer than you would initially imagine.”

When does Biden plan to make his formal nomination? 

Biden is aiming to select someone by the end of the month, and this will mark just the beginning of the confirmation process. Once Biden pick is officially announced, they’ll go before the Senate Judiciary Committee for public hearings, and if all goes well, their confirmation will be up for a full floor vote.