Briefing in brief: WH counters GOP attacks on planned SCOTUS pick

White House press secretary Jen Psaki fielded questions on Thursday largely focused on the looming vacancy on the Supreme Court, as well as the ongoing tensions between Russia and Ukraine.

Here’s the White House briefing — in brief. 

Countering GOP attacks on Biden’s SCOTUS pick

Psaki sought to undercut some attacks already being levied by Republican lawmakers and conservatives about Biden’s potential court pick, targeting those who have alleged the nominee would be a leftist or a rubber-stamp without so much as a shortlist of names being released.

“We have not mentioned a single name. We have not put out a list. The president made very, very clear he has not made a selection,” Psaki said. “If anyone is saying they plan to characterize whoever he nominates after thorough consideration with both parties as ‘radical’ before they knew literally anything about who she is, they just obliterated their own credibility.”

Psaki later was asked about comments from some conservatives, like Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), that Biden’s pledge to nominate a Black woman amounted to an affirmative action selection.

She pushed back on the idea, noting former President Reagan had nominated the first woman to serve on the court in Sandra Day O’Connor and said doing so symbolized “the richness of opportunity that still abides in America” for individuals of any age, sex, or race.

Outside expertise expected for SCOTUS confirmation

Much of Thursday’s briefing focused on how President Biden intends to fill the vacancy created by Justice Stephen Breyer’s planned retirement from the Supreme Court, which he made official earlier in the day.

Biden said in prepared remarks he would nominate a Black woman, the first ever to be tapped to serve on the nation’s highest court, and he planned to announce his choice by the end of February.

Psaki offered a few additional details for how the White House will gear up for the confirmation process, which could be rocky in a 50-50 Senate.

Psaki said the confirmation efforts will be led by a team made up of White House chief of staff Ron Klain, White House counsel Dana Remus, senior adviser Cedric Richmond, legislative affairs director Louisa Terrell and senior counsel Paige Herwig but also other experts from outside the administration. 

“As has been standard in the past, we would anticipate bringing in additional expertise from the outside to advise during the confirmation process,” Psaki said. “We would expect to have that team in place prior to a selection, but that is not finalized at this point.” 

Biden to chat with Zelensky

Biden is scheduled to speak Thursday afternoon with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the latest conversation between the two leaders amid ongoing concerns about Russian aggression toward Ukraine.

Psaki described it as “more of a check-in call” than one with a particular agenda. She noted Biden has been in regular contact with the Ukrainian leader in recent weeks.

The call comes amid heightened concerns that Russia is poised to launch an imminent offensive against Ukraine, with the Pentagon readying 8,500 troops for deployment and the State Department scaling down its embassy staff in Kyiv and raising travel warnings for the country. 

Biden has been in touch with other European leaders about readying a coordinated response should Russia invade.

Tags Cedric Richmond Dana Remus Jen Psaki Joe Biden Josh Hawley Louisa Terrell Ron Klain Stephen Breyer

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