Democrats plan to act quickly on Justice Breyer's successor

WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats say they plan to move quickly to consider President Biden’s nominee for the Supreme Court vacancy created ...


WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats say they plan to move quickly to consider President Biden’s nominee for the Supreme Court vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Stephen G. Breyer, like Republicans who ran to nominate Judge Amy Coney Barrett in a case just weeks before the 2020 election.

With a slim 50-seat majority under serious threat in November’s midterm elections, Democrats recognized the need to act quickly, especially as an illness or death of one of their members could robbing them of their numerical advantage and considerably complicating efforts to fill seats.

“President Biden’s nominee will receive a speedy hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee and will be considered and confirmed by the entire United States Senate with deliberate speed,” Sen. Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and Chief Justice, said Wednesday. of the majority. plans for Justice Breyer’s departure have become public.

Democrats could confirm a successor to Justice Breyer without any Republican support under Senate rules that protect a Supreme Court nomination from a filibuster, but they must remain firmly united to do so.

With the Senate evenly divided, Vice President Kamala Harris could be called upon to break a tie vote on any candidate, giving the Democrats the advantage as long as all members who usually vote with them go over to whoever they vote for. the president chooses.

But even with the numbers and the rules working in their favor, Democrats are well aware they have a narrow path and plans could go awry. They are wary of Sen. Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky and Minority Leader, who has previously tormented Democrats in high court fights and is known for finding new ways to use House rules to his advantage. even when they seem stacked against him.

Mr. McConnell is generally eager to use every means at his disposal to delay or derail the best-laid plans of Democrats, especially when it comes to the Supreme Court. In 2016, he summarily blocked President Barack Obama’s nominee Merrick B. Garland, citing the presidential election in 10 months. He then pushed Judge Barrett at the request of President Donald J. Trump in the days leading up to the 2020 election.

As they assessed the upcoming fight, Democrats predicted Wednesday that Republicans would throw up procedural hurdles and arguments in an effort to slow down the process and sink a candidate they likely view as too liberal.

But leading Republicans have admitted that Democrats could sit a new judge on their own, if needed.

“If all Democrats stick together — which I hope they will — they have the power to replace Justice Breyer in 2022 without a single Republican vote in favor,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina , a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, in a statement. .

If a Senate Democrat broke with the party on the nomination — as Senators Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona did on major policy issues in the Biden era — it could put danger the president’s choice and provide cover for Republicans to be in opposition as well. But despite divisions on some policy issues, Democrats have so far backed the judicial nominees put forward by the Biden administration.

Mr. McConnell did not comment Wednesday on the upcoming vacancy, telling Kentucky media that he would wait for a formal announcement from Judge Breyer. He said it was too early to know what his party’s response would be.

“We don’t even know who the candidate is yet,” McConnell said.

The Judiciary Committee has been bracing for a potential Supreme Court showdown since Democrats took control of the Senate a year ago and Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, became the committee’s chairman.

Senate officials said the 11-11 split in the panel due to the evenly divided Senate could create its own difficulties and that research was already underway on how to address some potential issues, such as ensuring that Republicans are not able to block the action by refusing to participate.

Although he has a long experience on the panel and has appeared in several Supreme Court battles, this would be the first time Mr Durbin has overseen a confirmation.

“With this vacancy on the Supreme Court, President Biden has the opportunity to appoint someone who will bring diversity, experience and an unbiased approach to the administration of justice,” Durbin said. promising to “quickly” pass the candidate to the committee.

Democrats, relieved that Judge Breyer is stepping down while they still control the Senate, called on Mr Biden to keep his promise to appoint the first black woman to the court.

“I trust President Biden to put forward an exceptional candidate who will stand up for all rights and freedoms of Americans – including the protection of voting rights and reproductive rights,” said Senator Patty Murray of Washington, the No. 3 Democrat. “I am ready to move as quickly as possible to consider and confirm a highly qualified nominee who will break down barriers and make history as the first black woman on the Supreme Court of the United States.”

Mr Schumer wants the whole process to take weeks, not months, according to a person familiar with his thinking who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Presidents have historically taken days to months to make a Supreme Court nomination after a vacancy. Justice Breyer is preparing to retire at the end of the Supreme Court’s term in June, but Democrats plan to begin the process of confirming a candidate to succeed him as soon as Mr. Biden announces a nominee. The new judge could then be seated shortly after Judge Breyer officially departs, the person familiar with Mr Schumer’s thinking said.

Given the current level of political polarization, only a handful of Senate Republicans are likely to be in play as potential supporters of the president’s nominee.

Many Republicans in the Senate have, of course, opposed Mr. Biden’s nominees for lower federal court seats, describing them as too progressive. The intense spotlight of a Supreme Court nomination — and the importance Republican voters traditionally place on the court — will make it even harder for the president to garner support from across the aisle.

Only three Republicans – Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska – voted in June to confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, considered a frontrunner to succeed Judge Breyer, to the Court of Justice. call from the United States for the District of Columbia circuit.

But supporting someone for an appeal court position does not guarantee the same level of support for a vacant high court position. Several senators voted against Supreme Court nominees they had previously supported.

Ms Murkowski, a centrist Republican seeking re-election this year, has already gone her own way when it comes to High Court nominations, opposing Mr Trump’s choice of Justice Brett M Kavanaugh in 2018 but backing his nomination of Judge Barrett. Ms Collins, another senator closely watched over Supreme Court nominations, voted to confirm Mr Kavanaugh but opposed Ms Barrett.

In a statement released on Wednesday, Ms Collins praised Judge Breyer but said no more.

Mr. Biden’s promise to make history by having the first black woman sit on the Supreme Court could eventually sway the votes of Republicans who want to be counted as supporters of court diversification.

But many Republicans — including some members of the Judiciary Committee who are considered possible future presidential candidates — will seek to use the confirmation fight to send a signal to Republican voters about their views on who belongs in the Upper Court and who does not.

“I predict that Chuck Schumer and whoever leads the White House will force all Democrats to obey and walk the plank in favor of a radical liberal with extremist views,” said Senator Rick Scott of Florida, president of the branch of his party’s Senate campaign.

Luke Broadwater and Emily Cochrane contributed report.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Democrats plan to act quickly on Justice Breyer's successor
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