Breyer's retirement gives Democrats a dose of (cautious) optimism

WASHINGTON — President Biden’s black and progressive allies, discouraged by disheartening legislative losses on social spending and voti...


WASHINGTON — President Biden’s black and progressive allies, discouraged by disheartening legislative losses on social spending and voting rights, said Wednesday they saw the possibility of Mr. Biden appointing a replacement for Justice Stephen G. Breyer as a welcome opportunity for a change of direction and a much-needed victory.

The president urged patience as Judge Breyer worked on his announcement — “I’m happy to talk about it later,” Mr Biden told reporters — but that made him pretty much the only Democrat to sit. Washington, which refrained from immediately drawing up lists of potential candidates. replacements based on his campaign promise to appoint a black woman to court.

“My first thought is just that this brings us closer to a long journey toward racial justice,” Rep. Ro Khanna, a progressive Democrat from California, said in an interview. “It’s really about what you want America to be for the next 50 years.”

Mr Khanna added that the vacancy could be a “galvanizing” moment for voters across the Democratic spectrum who felt discouraged, particularly after Mr Biden’s failure to push Democratic senators to pass legislation on the right of voting.

LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, skipped Mr. Biden’s voting rights speech in Atlanta this month, criticizing what she said was a White House effort that came too little too late.

But on Wednesday, Ms Brown said she was exuberant that Mr Biden could succeed on another promise, the one he made to voters in South Carolina during the difficult early days of his campaign. Black women, she said, “have stood on the front lines of democracy, not just for ourselves but for others.”

Donna Brazile, the Democratic strategist, became emotional as she raised the prospect of seeing a black woman on the court.

“It’s important because it’s another symbol – it’s public leadership,” she said. The Supreme Court, she added, “has always been seen as the domain of white men, and once you put a black woman in there, honey, you just broke everything.”

A radical change is unlikely: the retirement of Justice Breyer, who at 83 is the oldest member of the court, will do little to change the ideological balance of the court after his turn on the right since the Trump-era appointments of three more conservative justices.

It may also do little to motivate voters in the midterm election season which is certain to be dominated by issues such as the economy and the pandemic, which have helped to lower poll numbers from Mr. Biden and let his party risk losing control of the House and possibly the Senate in November.

Still, it’s a chance for Mr. Biden to add the first woman of color to the court since Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who was nominated by President Barack Obama in 2009, and to remind those who voted for Mr. Biden that he can still do well on the promises he made to them.

“I hope this is a time for all Democrats to rally around their president and move quickly to show that with power there are results,” said Faiz Shakir, a close adviser to the Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. “Especially when much of the legislative agenda is stalled, it can send the message back to voters who put it in the White House; here are tangible results of the fact that you have put us in power.

The vacancy could also give Democrats an opportunity to show a united front after a heated debate over voting rights: Senators Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who voted against changing the rules of the Senate to pass voting rights legislation, voted for all of Mr. Biden’s judicial nominations.

Although the composition of the Supreme Court in the past has been an issue that has galvanized voters on the right to a far greater extent than those on the left, several strategists have said that recent developments – including a court decision to stand take on a case that challenge Roe against Wade, the landmark decision that established a constitutional right to abortion — had changed that.

Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center, said a court’s refusal to block a Texas law that would ban most abortions also awoke voters to what was at stake. ‘expect the court to be an institution that not only interprets our laws, but truly reflects this country,’ she said.

The opportunity for Mr. Biden to appoint his first justice gives the Democratic Party “the opportunity to really elevate what the conservative takeover of the court means to real people,” said John Podesta, former chief of staff of Mr. Obama, alluding to the likelihood that the court this year will overturn or drastically curtail the abortion rights established nearly half a century ago in Roe v. Wade.

“They didn’t think reproductive rights were going to be taken away,” he added. “Now they know it’s true. And that’s true across a whole range of issues.

Democratic voters, others say, have been alarmed by what they see as an all-out effort by Republicans, led by Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, to alter the balance of the court at any cost, starting with frustrating the nomination of Mr. Obama’s third candidate. Supreme Court nominee Merrick B. Garland. The bitter confirmation proceedings of Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh and the installation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett days before the 2020 presidential election have only made them more concerned.

“A huge amount of scar tissue was left as a result of this decision by Chief McConnell,” Valerie Jarrett, a former senior adviser to Mr. Obama, said in an interview, recalling Garland’s appointment. “I think, in light of the landmark decisions that now need to be reviewed and the controversy surrounding Donald Trump’s appointments, people generally pay very close attention to the makeup of the court.”

Geoff Garin, a Democratic pollster, said the upcoming confirmation process could also be a powerful reminder to voters of the importance of maintaining a Democratic majority in the Senate.

“Democratic voters are painfully aware of what would happen if McConnell were in charge of the Senate if there was a nomination,” Garin said. “At a time when some Democratic voters feel unsure of the benefit of a Democratic majority, having a fight in the Supreme Court makes the significance crystal clear to voters.”

Senate Democrats have promised a quick confirmation process. The list of possible replacements includes women who have previously resisted the Senate confirmation process, including Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who did so successfully last year, when Mr. Biden elevated her from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia to the powerful United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.

Two other options include Judge Leondra R. Kruger of the Supreme Court of California and J. Michelle Childs, whom Mr. Biden said he would appoint at the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, a frequent gathering place for potential Supreme Court justices.

“When I think of the many black women lawyers who have such rich and deep experience that the country has yet to meet,” said Ms. Goss Graves, of the National Women’s Law Center, “I am thrilled that the country is being introduced to the long list.

Republicans were quickly dismissive. “Replacing one liberal with another liberal is just running in place,” said Sen. John Barrasso, Republican of Wyoming.

But several activists said it ignored the reality that appointing a black woman to the nation’s highest court would be a historic first, which could help Mr Biden regain the trust of a number of voters who had him. helped win the elections. “It could energize people who have been in many ways demoralized around the vote,” Reverend Al Sharpton said.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Breyer's retirement gives Democrats a dose of (cautious) optimism
Breyer's retirement gives Democrats a dose of (cautious) optimism
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