Senate Republicans downplay race in Supreme Court battle

Some Senate Republicans are predicting a civil but difficult battle on the Supreme Court in which their members largely avoid the nominee’s identity as a black woman, a historical element that Democrats have played in touting the need for a more justice system. representative that resembles America.

But that marks a change from recent weeks, when several Republicans criticized comments made after President Biden reaffirmed his commitment to appoint a black woman to replace retired High Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer.

Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) joked that he wanted “a candidate who knows a law book from a J. Crew catalog.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) called Biden’s pledge to appoint the first black woman to court “offensive” and “an insult to black women,” while Sen. Josh Hawley (R- Mo.) warned against choosing a “woke” one. activist.”

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) said Biden’s pick would be the beneficiary of affirmative action.

“The irony is that the Supreme Court is simultaneously hearing cases about this type of affirmative racial discrimination, while adding someone who benefits from this type of quota,” he said in a radio interview. January 28.

Since then, many Republicans have tried to deflect attention from the gender and race of the eventual nominee.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (RS.C.), former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told CBS’ “Face the Nation” days after Wicker’s comments that he supported “making sure the court and others institutions look like America”.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he was waiting for Biden to nominate a pick.

“I don’t care if it’s male or female, black, white, brown, Native American,” he said in an interview. “I’m just interested in how they’re going to interpret the Constitution. That’s all that bothers me. »

Focusing on the candidate’s gender or race could be a risk for Republicans. Of the 50 Republicans in the Senate, only three are nonwhite: Sen. Tim Scott (RS.C.), who is black, and the Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Cruz, who are Latinos. Eight are women, and only one, Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), sits on the judicial panel.

Progressive groups pointed to Kennedy, Cruz, Hawley and Wicker’s comments as insight into the GOP’s strategy to defeat Biden’s pick.

Republicans ‘already tripping over themselves to say the most racist thing they can think of [the unnamed Supreme Court nominee]his qualifications and his ideology,” said Meagan Hatcher-Mays, director of democratic policy for the activist group Indivisible.

A Republican senator has criticized fellow outrage at Biden narrowing his reach to only black women, urging the party to avoid making race an issue.

“It makes sense if we did a full survey of all black women in America and found that none of them qualified. How stupid is that?” said the senator, who got anonymity to speak candidly about his colleagues’ recent comments.

“Even if it’s someone I would vote against because of philosophical differences or qualifications or whatever, if it’s a black woman who gets confirmed, we have to celebrate that,” he said.

Biden said he plans to appoint a black woman to the High Court by the end of February, Black History Month. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that the president will interview candidates “within the next two weeks.”

The leading candidates are Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, California Supreme Court Judge Leondra Kruger and Judge J. Michelle Childs of the United States District Court States for the District of South Carolina.

Graham and Scott backed Childs, their original judge, and three Republicans backed Jackson in a confirmation vote last year.

Such GOP support bodes well for the eventual confirmation of Biden’s pick, and some Republicans question the value of engaging in a nasty public fight, particularly if it distracts from other issues that, they say will work against Democrats in the midterm elections.

“The outcome is almost certain here,” said another Republican senator, who also did not want to be identified speaking on the issue. “I don’t think Republicans benefit from drawing too much attention to issues where the administration is struggling. So hopefully that sets the stage for how we handle this appointment in a way that doesn’t distract from inflation and foreign policy failures and other things that we’ll probably have a lot more of success in speaking.

But divisions over race and gender have continued to permeate Congress in recent days.

During a remote environmental justice committee hearing on Tuesday, Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Elk Grove) began his remarks with this: “I must admit that I joined this hearing largely out of curiosity. about how the left-wing majority can turn anything, even natural resource politics, into a race issue.

Republicans on the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday delayed a vote on five Federal Reserve nominees due to opposition to Sarah Bloom Raskin, who was named vice chairman for oversight.

By failing to provide a quorum, Republicans also blocked the nominations of Fed Chairman Jerome Powell, Lael Brainard as vice chairman, and Lisa Cook and Philip Jefferson as Fed governors. If confirmed, Cook would be the first black woman to serve on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors.

Another Republican senator, who also asked not to be identified, argued that it was the Democrats who focused on the candidate’s race and gender. Republicans, the senator said, will continue to discuss “his qualifications, his judicial character, his writings, his decisions.”

“I think very little attention will be given [by Republicans] about the notion of identity politics, just because that’s kind of what we are as a party,” the senator said. “I think Democrats are more focused on identity politics.”

With a handful of Republicans on the Judiciary Committee eyeing a possible presidential race, it’s also possible they’re looking for a viral moment by being tough on the candidate or asking pointed questions that will excite the Republican base.

Sense. Cory Booker (DN.J.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) then Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) all raised their profile as Judiciary Committee members and ran for president in 2020, with Harris becoming vice president.

“There are definitely people trying to appeal beyond the Senate chamber when they make their comments,” said John Malcolm, vice president of the Heritage Foundation’s Conservative Institute of Constitutional Government. “It’s just the reality. Some senators want to run for president, and they will take this opportunity to say what they want to say. »

Los Angeles Times

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