Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, both centrist Democrats, have been a major thorn in the side of President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda — drawing vehement criticism from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party for getting in the way of everything from the Build Back Better Act to voting rights. But one area in which Manchin and Sinema are “unlikely” to be an obstacle for Biden, according to The Hill reporter Alexander Bolton, is a U.S. Supreme Court nominee.
A Supreme Court bombshell came on Wednesday, January 26 when the news broke that liberal Justice Stephen Breyer, now 83, is retiring. Breyer has been on the High Court since 1994, when he was nominated by President Bill Clinton and replaced Justice Harry Blackmun — a Republican who President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed to the Warren Court in 1959.
A Biden nominee to replace Breyer won’t be a major game changer, as six of the nine justices will still be appointees of Republican presidents. But if Biden’s nominee is young enough, that person could still keep that seat in liberal hands for the next 20, 25 or 30 years. One person being mentioned as a possible Biden nominee is D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, a 51-year-old Gen-Xer.
“The retirement of liberal Justice Stephen Breyer sets up a battle in the Senate that is almost certain to result in the confirmation of President Biden’s pick to succeed him,” Bolton reports in an article published by The Hill on January 27. “At the same time, there’s likely to be some drama along the way, and many eyes will be on the centrist Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.VA.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who have impeded Biden and frustrated fellow Senate Democrats by blocking key parts of the president’s agenda.”
Bolton adds, however, that “Manchin and Sinema have backed judicial nominees from Biden and seem unlikely to stand in the way of a Biden pick for the Court — an appointment that will not change the balance of a body that now has six conservative justices.”
It remains to be seen whether or not Jackson will be Biden’s High Court nominee. But Jackson, Bolton notes, had no problem being confirmed by the Senate to her current D.C. Circuit Court position in June 2021 — and she even got some GOP votes.
Bolton recalls, “Manchin and Sinema joined the rest of their Democratic colleagues in backing her confirmation to the D.C. Circuit in a 53-44 in June. Three Republicans also voted to confirm: Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Lindsey Graham (SC).”
Graham has spoken out about Breyer’s retirement, and the conservative South Carolina senator doesn’t see Manchin or Sinema opposing a Biden nominee. On January 26, Graham tweeted, “As to his replacement: If all Democrats hang together — which I expect they will — they have the power to replace Justice Breyer in 2022 without one Republican vote in support. Elections have consequences, and that is most evident when it comes to fulfilling vacancies on the Supreme Court.”
Justice Breyer has always shown great respect for the institution and his colleagues, and I wish him well in the next phase of his life.— Lindsey Graham (@Lindsey Graham) 1643220123
As to his replacement: If all Democrats hang together \u2013 which I expect they will \u2013 they have the power to replace Justice Breyer in 2022 without one Republican vote in support.— Lindsey Graham (@Lindsey Graham) 1643220123
Biden has said that he will nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court, and Jackson is African-American. Bolton, however, points out that she isn’t the only person being mentioned as a possible nominee.
“Biden’s Supreme Court shortlist also includes 7th Circuit judge Candace Jackson-Akiwumi, 2nd Circuit Judge Eunice Lee, California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger, Federal Circuit Judge Tiffany Cunningham, South Carolina District Judge J. Michelle Childs and Minnesota District Judge Wilhelmina Wright,” Bolton reports. “Judges Brown Jackson, Jackson-Akiwumi, Eunice Lee and Cunningham all have the advantage of having been confirmed to their current positions in this Congress, and all 50 members of the Democratic caucus are already on the record supporting them as qualified nominees. Jackson-Akiwumi was confirmed to the 7th Circuit by a 53-47 vote in June and also had the support of Collins, Murkowski and Graham.”
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