Graham's last stand? Senator leads Barrett court hearings

WASHINGTON (AP) - Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina wields the gavel in the performance of his political life.
The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, once a stinging critic of President Donald Trump, opened confirmatory hearing for Judge Amy Coney Barrett on Monday to seal a Conservative 6-to-3 majority in the Supreme Court. The balance could be the future of government health care during a coronavirus pandemic that killed more than 214,000 Americans. And Graham's own career is in danger like never before.
For Graham, the Republican Senate majority and Trump himself, the hearings three weeks before election day could be a final stand. The process shows voters what it means to control the presidency and the Senate. But they're also a real-time test to see if that's enough to counter a mind-boggling $ 57 million fundraiser by Graham's Democratic adversary Jaime Harrison of South Carolina.
"Senator, how good is your word?" Harrison, 44, asked during a recent debate.
Graham's answer is complicated by his whip shifts, especially when it comes to Trump. He was both friend and enemy of the belligerent president. Now they play golf. He once vowed to oppose hearings confirming the Supreme Court during the presidential election years. He's chairman of Barrett this week and predicts she'll be retried in the Supreme Court this month to replace the late Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
In that case, 48-year-old Barrett would be one of nine judges who hear arguments on issues that affect millions of people. One of them is a Trump administration-backed challenge to the Affordable Care Act, expected to be due a week after the election. Other stressed issues that might be envisaged for the Supreme Court include abortion, immigration, and gay marriage.
With an early vote in South Carolina and many other states, 65-year-old Graham climbed the podium on Monday amid his opponent's dwindling fundraiser, his own testimony as one of the most visible members of the Senate, and Trump's weak position against Democrat Joe Biden in the final section the campaign.
"What he's finding is that he's been coming back to bite him for the past four years," said Danielle Vinson, professor of politics and international affairs at Furman University. “There are many people who were familiar with him. He was ready to take over the party. When he changed to support Trump and embrace Trump, that really sparked some people. "
Harrison's money doesn't guarantee that he will beat Graham. In the final fundraising period of 2018, Texas Democrat Beto O'Rourke's $ 38 million surpassed the amount raised by Republican Senator Ted Cruz, who won his Senate race.
And being a Republican in traditionally conservative South Carolina carries a lot of weight. The state has not elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1998.
However, the days leading up to the Barrett hearings were particularly challenging for Graham. During a debate forum with Harrison - the black man - on Friday, Graham denied that there was systemic racism in South Carolina.
"If you're a young African American, an immigrant, you can go anywhere in this state. You just have to be conservative, not liberal," Graham said.
Then, on Sunday, Harrison's campaign rocked the political world with its fundraiser, fueled by contributions from across the country.
The third quarter figure brings Harrison's total procurement for the campaign to $ 86 million. Harrison's campaign attributed the success to grassroots support, saying the $ 57 million came in the form of 1.5 million donations from 994,000 donors. The average contribution was $ 37.
Graham, knowing full well that the president was winning his states by double digits, tried to brush it off.
"There isn't enough money in the world to convince the South Carolinians to vote for the radically liberal agenda," said Graham. But weeks earlier, he had complained on Fox News that he was "financially killed" by Harrison.
What Graham stands for and who he stands with was a problem. From the moment he dropped the gavel at Barrett's hearing on Monday, Graham will have broken his own vow to defy Supreme Court affirmations during the years of the presidential election. He calls Trump a "racial xenophobic religious fanatic" who "has no clue about anything" regarding foreign policy and "does not represent my party".
He and the late Arizona Senator John McCain, deeply loathed by Trump, were best friends and often delighted to taunt the president.
But Graham, who knows that Trump won his state by 14 percentage points in 2016, has been the president's golfer and political ally ever since.
It was Graham's fiery defense of Supreme Court candidate Brett Kavanaugh in 2018 that helped build his relationship with Trump and renew the support of some who had not seen Graham as conservative enough to represent South Carolina.
Graham has described Kavanaugh's affirmation as the "defining moment" of the Trump presidency. At a White House event to celebrate the appointment of judicial officers last year, Trump and Graham marveled at their friendship after the fierce battle for the 2016 presidential nomination. Graham was one of more than a dozen Republicans who opposed the New York real estate mogul competed.
Back then, Trump called Graham "lightweight" and "liberal" and made the Senator's cell phone number known.
"After getting hit like a dog, which is what he likes to hear," said Graham of Trump, "he called me into the White House and said," I want you to help me. "And I said," I would love to help you be a great president because you are my president now. "
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Follow Kellman on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/APLaurieKellman

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