Democrats plan to move quickly on Justice Breyer’s successor

WASHINGTON – Senate Democrats say they plan to move quickly to consider President Biden’s candidacy for the Supreme Court vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Stephen G. Breyer, following the Republican lead running through the nomination of Justice Amy Coney Barrett in an issue weeks before the 2020 election.

Keeping the 50-seat majority empty is seriously threatened in the November midterm elections, Democrats acknowledge the need to act quickly, particularly because of the illness or death of one of the members. Their membership can deprive them of their numerical advantage and greatly complicate the effort to fill seats.

“President Biden’s nominee will receive an expedited hearing on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and will be reviewed and confirmed by the full Senate of the United States with deliberate speed. ,” Senator Chuck Schumer, a Democrat of New York and majority leader, said Wednesday after plans for Justice Breyer’s departure were made public.

Democrats can confirm Justice Breyer’s successor without any Republican backing under Senate rules that keep the Supreme Court nomination from being scrapped, but they must unite. agree to do so.

With an even split in the Senate, Vice President Kamala Harris could be called upon to break a tie vote on whichever candidate is nominated, giving the Democrats an immunity advantage. are all members who normally vote with them rallying in favor of whoever the president chooses.

But even with the numbers and rules in their favor, Democrats are well aware they have a narrow path and the plans could go awry. They are wary of Senator Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican and minority leader who has previously caused headaches for Democrats with high-court court battles and is known for finding out novel ways to use the rules of the boardroom to his advantage, even when they appeared against him.

McConnell is generally eager to use any means at his disposal to delay or derail the Democrats’ best plans, especially when it comes to the Supreme Court. In 2016, he blocked President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick B. Garland, on the grounds that the presidential election had been suspended for 10 months. He then pushed Justice Barrett through President Donald J. Trump’s urging in the days leading up to the 2020 election.

As they assess the upcoming fight, Democrats predicted on Wednesday that Republicans will introduce procedural and argumentative hurdles in an effort to slow the process and sink a candidate. which they may consider too liberal.

But leading Republicans concede that Democrats can deliver a new justice on their own, if necessary.

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

If any Democrat in the Senate has split from the party upon nomination – like Senators Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona on major policy issues in the Biden era – that could jeopardize the president’s choice and create cover for opposition Republicans as well. But despite divisions on a number of policy issues, Democrats have so far supported the judicial nominees the Biden administration has put forward.

Mr. McConnell did not weigh in on Wednesday with his views on the upcoming vacancy, telling Kentucky news media that he would wait for an official announcement from Justice Breyer. He said it was too early to know what his party’s reaction would be.

“We don’t even know who the nominees are yet,” Mr McConnell said.

The Judiciary Committee has been preparing for a potential Supreme Court confrontation since Democrats took over the Senate a year ago and Senator Richard J. Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, became chairman of the committee.

Senate officials said the Nov. 11 split in the panel because the Senate was split could create its own set of problems, and research has been conducted on how to address some potential issues, such as such as ensuring that Republicans cannot block action by denial. participation.

Although he has long experience on the panel and has participated in numerous Supreme Court trials, this will be the first time Mr. Durbin has overseen a confirmation.

“With this Supreme Court vacancy, President Biden has the opportunity to nominate someone who will bring diversity, experience and an even approach to judicial administration,” Mr. will “expeditiously” move the nominee through the committee.

Democrats, relieved that Justice Breyer’s resignation while they still control the Senate, have called on Mr Biden to deliver on his promise to nominate the first Black woman to the court. .

Senator Patty Murray of Washington, 3rd Democrat, said: “I have confidence that President Biden will present an exceptional candidate who will defend all American rights and liberties – including protecting voting and reproductive rights,” said Senator Patty Murray of Washington, 3rd Democrat. “I am ready to proceed as quickly as possible to review and confirm a highly qualified candidate who will break barriers and make history as the first Black woman at United States Supreme Court.”

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.

Historically, presidents have typically taken days to months to submit nominations to the Supreme Court after vacancies have occurred. Justice Breyer is preparing to retire at the end of his Supreme Court term in June, but Democrats plan to begin the process of confirming a nominee to succeed him as soon as Mr. candidates. New justice could then be seated shortly after Justice Breyer formally resigns, a person familiar with Mr Schumer’s thoughts said.

Given the current level of political polarization, only a handful of Senate Republicans are likely to act as potential backers for the presidential nomination.

Of course, many Republicans in the Senate have opposed Biden’s nominations for seats in federal lower courts, calling them too progressive. The intense spotlight on the Supreme Court nomination — and the importance traditionally Republican voters place on the court — will make it even harder to garner support from across the aisle. than the president.

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, who is seen as a front-runner. to succeed Justice Breyer, to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

But backing someone for an appeals court position does not guarantee the same level of support for high court vacancies. Many senators voted against the Supreme Court nominations they had previously supported.

Ms. Murkowski, a centrist Republican looking to run for re-election this year, had previously gone her own way with high court nominations, opposing Mr. Trump’s choice of Justice. Brett M. Kavanaugh in 2018 but supported his nomination as Justice Barrett. Ms. Collins, another senator who closely follows the Supreme Court nominations, voted to confirm Mr. Kavanaugh but oppose Ms. Barrett.

In a statement released on Wednesday, Ms. Collins praised Justice Breyer but said nothing beyond that.

Mr. Biden’s pledge to make history by putting the first black woman on the Supreme Court could sway the votes of Republicans, who want to be seen as plural supporters. court reform.

But many Republicans – including some on the Judiciary Committee who are seen as possible future presidential candidates – will seek to use the confirmation war to send signals to the public. Republican voters on their views on who belongs to the supreme court and who doesn’t.

“I predict that Chuck Schumer and whoever is running the White House will force all Democrats to follow and follow the path of supporting radical liberals with radical views,” said Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, chairman of his party’s Senate campaign.

Luke Broadwater and Emily Cochrane contribution report. Democrats plan to move quickly on Justice Breyer’s successor

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