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GOP should follow its rule

For all their crawfishing now about when it’s appropriate in a presidential term to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court, no one captures the shamelessness of the Republican majority in the Senate more than South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham.

In 2016, shortly after Antonin Scalia died, opening the way for then President Barack Obama to try to fill that seat on the high court with someone less conservative, Graham helped block that from happening.

“I want you to use my words against me,” Graham said at the time. “If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said, ‘Let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination.’ And you could use my words against me and you’d be absolutely right.”

More than two years later, with Donald Trump installed in the White House, Graham repeated that sentiment: “If an opening comes in the last year of President Trump’s term, and the primary process has started, we’ll wait till the next election.”

When it became apparent, however, that this scenario might actually play out in Trump’s first term, Graham began to walk back his previous pledges. The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who would oversee confirmation hearings, now appears to be solidly on board with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to rush through this year Trump’s choice to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

If Republican senators fail to keep their word, they could open a Pandora’s box in which whoever is in the majority will try even more strenuously to turn the presumably impartial high court into a offshoot of their party.

Maybe it was a bad idea to establish the precedent of a president’s last year being a Supreme Court-free period, but it was one that the GOP leadership created. It should live by that rule in 2020.

Then after the election, no matter who wins, senators in both parties should sit down and work out the rules going forward, including possibly reinstituting the 60-vote threshold for confirmations to the Supreme Court. That would avoid the currently corrosive situation in which slim majorities can run roughshod over the minority party.

* Guest editorial from The Greenwood Commonwealth in Greenwood, Miss.

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