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Lindsey Graham stands apart from other Republican senators on Kagan vote

Lindsey Graham and his fellow Republicans have different definitions of doing the right thing.
Lindsey Graham and his fellow Republicans have different definitions of doing the right thing. (Melina Mara/the Washington Post)
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By Dana Milbank
Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Lindsey Graham is all of 5-foot-7 with his shoes on, but these days he towers above his Senate Republican colleagues.

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As the Judiciary Committee held its vote on Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan on Tuesday afternoon, the seats on either side of Graham were empty. Sens. Jon Kyl (Ariz.) and John Cornyn (Tex.), along with Tom Coburn (Okla.), showed their contempt for President Obama and his nominee by skipping the vote -- just as they had done 51 weeks earlier for the vote on Sonia Sotomayor.

"Mr. Kyl?" the clerk called out.

"No by proxy," answered the ranking Republican, Jeff Sessions (Ala.).

"Mr. Cornyn?"

Behind the empty black armchair, a Cornyn aide made a thumbs-down gesture.

"No by proxy," Sessions said.

"Mr. Coburn?"

"No by proxy."

Alone in this empty quadrant of the committee table sat Graham. "Aye," the South Carolinian said, nodding with self-assurance.

Graham delivered his "yes" vote -- the only such vote by a Republican on the panel -- with a rebuke for both sides, particularly his fellow Republicans who have become so reflexive in their opposition to Obama that they are distorting their constitutional duties.

"I think there's a good reason for a conservative to vote yes, and that's provided in the Constitution itself," Graham told his peers before reading to them from Federalist No. 6, by Alexander Hamilton. "The Senate should have a special and strong reason for the denial of confirmation," he read, such as "to prevent the appointment of unfit characters from family connection, from personal attachment and from a view to popularity."

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