Senators give glimpse into upcoming Supreme Court nomination battle
Senators from both parties on Sunday gave a glimpse into how they might approach President Biden’s Supreme Court nomination, with some signaling they would support his choice of the first Black female justice and others suggesting his nominee wouldn’t get a single Republican vote.
Biden last week reaffirmed a campaign promise that he would nominate a Black woman to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Stephen Breyer at the end of the Supreme Court’s term later this year.
Republican Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) called Biden’s approach to the nomination process “clumsy at best.”
While Collins said she would welcome a Black female nominee, she said Biden specifying on the campaign trail that he would appoint a Black woman to the high court politicized the process.
“It adds to the further perception that the court is a political institution like Congress when it is not supposed to be. So I certainly am open to whomever he decides to nominate. My job as a senator is to evaluate the qualifications of that person under the advice and consent role,” she told ABC’s “This Week.”
Host George Stephanopoulos, however, pointed out that former Republican Presidents Trump and Reagan vowed to nominate female justices to the court and questioned Collins on the difference between those pledges and Biden’s.
“You say that it’s clumsy, but isn’t it. … Isn’t it exactly what President Reagan did when he said he would appoint a woman to the Supreme Court? Isn’t it exactly what President Trump did when he said he would appoint a woman to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg?” Stephanopoulos asked.
“Actually, it isn’t exactly the same,” Collins replied. “I’ve looked at what was done in both cases, and what President Biden did was, as a candidate, make this pledge, and that helped politicize the entire nomination process.”
Republican Sen. Roger Wicker (Miss.) told a local radio host on Friday that Biden’s nominee “will probably not get a single Republican vote” after he suggested that choosing a Black woman for the Supreme Court amounted to being a “beneficiary” of affirmative action.
“The irony is that the Supreme Court is at the very same time hearing cases about this sort of affirmative racial discrimination while adding someone who is the beneficiary of this sort of quota,” Wicker said in an interview on SuperTalk Mississippi radio.
The White House rebuked Wicker in a statement, pointing to glowing comments he made when Trump announced he would choose a woman to replace Ginsburg.
“When the previous president followed through on his own promise to place a woman on the Supreme Court, Senator Wicker said, ‘I have five granddaughters, the oldest one is 10. I think Justice Amy Coney Barrett will prove to be an inspiration to these five granddaughters and to my grown daughters.’ We hope Senator Wicker will give President Biden’s nominee the same consideration he gave to then-Judge Barrett,” the statement said.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) also disputed Wicker on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
“Put me in the camp of making sure the court and other institutions look like America. You know, we make a real effort as Republicans to recruit women and people of color to make the party look more like America,” Graham said.
Graham spoke highly of U.S. District Judge J. Michelle Childs, who is on the list of names being considered for the nomination. Graham pushed back against Wicker’s implication that nominating a Black female candidate would be a form of affirmative action.
“In the history of our country, we’ve only had five women serve and two African American men,” said Graham. “So let’s make the court more like America, but qualifications have to be the biggest consideration.”
Biden has said that he will announce his nominee by the end of February.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said on Sunday that it was “unfair” to speculate about any potential front-runners for the seat.
“I think suggesting there’s a front-runner or this person is now moving ahead, that’s unfair to all the nominees. This is in the hands of the president, as it should be,” Durbin said. “If there are no new developments for someone who’s been before the committee in the previous year or two, it makes a real difference.”
Durbin also defended Biden’s plan of nominating a Black woman to the Supreme Court, calling Black women in law “extraordinary people” for overcoming obstacles.
“They’re all going to face the same close scrutiny. This is a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land, and I just hope that those who are critical of the president’s selection aren’t doing it for personal reasons,” he said.