Biden, a veteran of Supreme Court fights, reflects on his own historic choice

WASHINGTON — President Biden stays up late in the White House residence, pondering the biographies of four potential Supreme Court nomin...


WASHINGTON — President Biden stays up late in the White House residence, pondering the biographies of four potential Supreme Court nominees and the cases they have decided.

He reaches out to Republican senators, seeks their views on who he should choose, and gauges their willingness to support the choice of a Democratic president.

He is retiring to Camp David this weekend for a Supreme Court prep session, and he plans to begin personally interviewing candidates next week.

Mr. Biden, who headed the Senate Judiciary Committee for a dozen years and is a veteran scarred by battles before the High Court, is probably the most experienced president of all time when it comes to providing a vacancy on the Supreme Court, having first voted for a justice in 1975. He also played a pivotal role in transforming the Supreme Court confirmation process from somewhat staid cases into brutal partisan clashes.

Now he’s trying to put all that knowledge to good use as he makes his own historic choice of the first black woman to be nominated to serve on the High Court, a selection that will be an important part of his presidential legacy.

Whether all of this personal history bears fruit will become clear in the next two weeks if Mr. Biden sticks to his schedule of disclosure of his choosing before the end of the month, triggering a Senate process that has become the one of the capital’s most watched rituals. .

“This is a committee that Joe Biden knows so well,” said Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, who will preside over a Supreme Court confirmation for the first time. “He chaired it. He lived in this committee. He’s been through so many battles and he understands what we’re up against.

As panel chairman in 1987, Mr. Biden led the charge against President Ronald Reagan’s nomination of Judge Robert H. Bork, whose slash-and-burn confirmation hearings set a precedent for later confirmation fights.

And in 1991, he presided over explosive hearings to confirm Judge Clarence Thomas. Those hearings included accusations of sexual misconduct that left some accusing Mr. Biden and his all-white, all-male committee of abusing Anita Hill, who had accused Judge Thomas of sexual harassment. Mr Biden has since regretted to Mrs. Hill.

Mr. Biden was vice president when Republicans took things to another level, blocking President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick B. Garland, in 2016. Mr. Biden was seeking the presidency four years later when Republicans stood rushed to President Donald J. Trump’s choice, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, in record time.

Now, with his own court selection looming, Mr. Biden has consciously tried to lower the partisan temperature, build consensus and act more deliberately than has been the case with recent appointments.

In a private session at the White House on Thursday night, Mr. Biden told Mr. Durbin and nine other Democrats on the Judiciary Committee his strong desire to win bipartisan support for whomever he proposes — and to avoid the rancor that has surrounded recent hearings – although he added that such an outcome was not a necessity.

The president said he hoped to start talking face-to-face with potential candidates next week, in line with his plan to announce his choice by the end of the month. He told senators he had begun reviewing the backgrounds of at least four candidates, although he did not mention any names.

Democrats who discussed the choice with Mr. Biden on Thursday said that while he debated who should succeed Justice Stephen G. Breyer, he wanted someone who has demonstrated legal excellence, character strong and the ability to persuade not only the other members of the tribunal – which is now tilting 6-3 in favor of the Tories – but also members of the public.

“Someone in Justice Breyer’s model, someone who will write moving, compelling and enduring arguments – hopefully in the majority at some point, but probably, in the next few years, in dissent,” said Senator Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware. , outlining the criteria that Mr. Biden laid out during the meeting.

Several Democrats have said the White House’s ability to identify highly qualified judicial candidates and conduct thorough background reviews has already been demonstrated with the confirmation of a record 40 justices in the president’s first year, despite an equally divided Senate.

“A number of us have commented on the quality of his nominations,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut. “They’re experienced, and they know where the pitfalls are and where to look, so the candidates they’ve selected are pretty much bulletproof, even though Republicans may still try to attack.”

Mr. Biden isn’t the only one involved who knows the confirmation process inside out, and Republicans won’t be chicks, even if they weigh in how aggressively to attack a black candidate.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the Judiciary Committee’s top Republican, chaired two of the most recent hearings and took part in more than a dozen other Supreme Court confirmations as well as hundreds deliberations for positions in the lower courts.

“There’s no one more experienced or savvy on judicial appointments,” said Garrett Ventry, a former senior Republican adviser on the Judiciary Committee.

In his 36 years in the Senate, Mr. Biden, a trained lawyer, presided over six Supreme Court confirmation hearings, including the hugely controversial matchups over Justice Bork and Justice Thomas, and he appeared in a dozen others. Mr. Biden is also surrounded by other members of his team who have deep expertise in judicial confirmation fights.

Ron Klain, the president’s chief of staff, attended Thursday’s meeting with Senate Democrats and has been engaged in judicial politics for decades. He was Mr. Biden’s attorney on the Judiciary Committee during the 1991 showdown over Thomas’s nomination, and he was a top legal adviser to Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

Given Mr. Biden’s and Mr. Klain’s track records, it’s no surprise that administration officials say planning to fill a Supreme Court vacancy has been underway since the administration transitioned. Trump. Once Mr Biden took office, those around him began laying the groundwork for a possible replacement who would fulfill his campaign promise to appoint a black woman to the High Court. Eight of Mr. Biden’s first 16 nominees to federal appeals courts were also black women.

Mr. Biden and his team appear determined to restore a measure of bipartisanship and dignity to the Supreme Court confirmation process — a goal some Republicans say they share.

The president and Dana Remus, the White House attorney, diligently polled Republicans on their thoughts. “I’m serious when I say I want Senate opinion as well as consent,” Mr. Biden said during a meeting with Mr. Grassley and Mr. Durbin.

Republicans say the key to garnering their support will not be in raising awareness, but in the candidate herself. Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican from South Carolina, said the president could make a selection consistent with the moderate image he has emphasized in his campaign – or he could move left and risk losing support from most Republicans. Mr. Graham is a leading voice in support of a Federal District Court Judge in his state, J. Michelle Childs.

“If you want 60 votes or more, you go with her,” Mr Graham said of Judge Childs. “If you want to do left-wing politics, you go with someone else.”

Mr Biden is also believed to be on the shortlist of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, a former clerk to Judge Breyer who won the support of Mr Graham and two other Republican senators when Mr Biden brought her up the year last from a district court seat to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Another potential candidate is California Supreme Court Justice Leondra R. Kruger, who served in the Obama administration and has many typical candidate qualifications.

Officials say extensive background checks have begun on possible choices.

Some Democrats and activists remain concerned that Mr. Biden’s deliberate approach could slow the process and undermine its political momentum. But others say he should invest time and energy in learning about the top contenders and their legal philosophies.

“We encouraged him to do it the right way,” Mr Durbin said. “But we can’t wait to get started.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: Biden, a veteran of Supreme Court fights, reflects on his own historic choice
Biden, a veteran of Supreme Court fights, reflects on his own historic choice
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