Despite personal appeals, Lindsey Graham won’t support Supreme Court hearings

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks during a Jan. 21 news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. On Tuesday, Graham said he would continue to oppose the Obama administration’s efforts to confirm a new Supreme Court justice.

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham doesn’t plan on changing his decision against confirming a new Supreme Court justice and said continued lobbying from the White House won’t work.

“They should give up on me,” Graham, R-S.C., said Tuesday. “You can tell them.”

As President Barack Obama prepares to nominate a successor to the late Justice Antonin Scalia, Senate GOP leaders are firm in saying they won’t hold hearings on a nominee before a new president is sworn into office in 2017 or schedule a floor vote.

That message was delivered to Obama directly from U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and U.S. Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley on Tuesday.

The Kentucky and Iowa Republicans, respectively, were called to the White House to discuss a path forward, or the lack thereof, along with their Democratic counterparts, Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and the Judiciary Committee’s ranking member, Patrick Leahy of Vermont.

“They think they are going to wait and see what President (Donald) Trump will do I guess as far as the nomination is concerned,” Reid told reporters afterward.

During a briefing with reporters Monday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the administration would continue to lobby Congress no matter the outcome of the Tuesday meeting. He said every member of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on both sides of the aisle had received a phone call, either on a staff level or from the president himself.

Earnest added that it was “really too soon to tell” which GOP senators would be moved by the administration’s appeal for the chamber to follow its “constitutional duty.”

Graham, a member of the Judiciary Committee, wouldn’t say who called him or what was discussed. But he made it clear Obama and his team were falling short in their effort to make him one of their allies.

Like other congressional Republicans, Graham isn’t inclined to cooperate with an outgoing administration, especially one that’s had such a combative relationship with the GOP over the past seven years. He also isn’t inclined to help out his Democratic colleagues after Reid’s power move in the previous Congress when, as majority leader, he changed institutional rules to lower the vote threshold from 60 to 50 for approving judicial nominees.

“I told the president and the Democratic leadership that if you abuse power and change the rules for appellate judges and executive appointments going to a majority, you’ll pay a price with me,” Graham said last month. “So here’s the price. I’m not going to vote for a Barack Obama nominee unless he’s a consensus choice.”

The notion that any candidate would be a consensus choice at this point seems dim at best.

“Leader Reid, when he was in the minority, made clear that the Supreme Court was an exception,” Earnest had said Monday when asked about the argument. “And I do think that reflects the special status the Supreme Court has.”

Emma Dumain is The Post and Courier’s Washington correspondent.