Anxious Democrats Want Biden to Speed Up Vetting for Supreme Court Pick

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee are requesting President Biden to accelerate his procedure for selecting a nominee for the Supreme Court so that nothing is given a chance in a 50-50 Senate where a medical emergency is already imposing stress on the Democrats’ narrow majority.

On Thursday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who went to meet Biden at the White House, mentions he wants the confirmation process to start at the earliest.

Durbin mentioned he needs Biden to “do it soon,” adding, “I think we understand the importance of the responsibility we have and we’re anxious to get this Senate moving forward. We started to pick up speed recently and we want to continue that.”

Biden Needs to Move as Soon as Possible

Another member of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), mentioned he requires Biden to “move as promptly as possible.”

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He said “I’m impressed with all of the potential nominees that have been named so far. I think they all have compelling personal life stories and immensely impressive qualifications.”

Senate Democrats aren’t putting efforts to knock Biden toward a particular nominee or another, but they are forcing him not to postpone for a long time in setting forth a name.

Blumenthal said “I think time is urgent,” adding “We need to move forward quickly but fairly.”

Senate Democrats were shaken up last month when Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), a freshman lawmaker, went through a stroke. A senior associate later announced that he would possibly not be available for 4 to 6 weeks of work, effectively declining the Democratic caucus to 49 members.

The medical emergency gave a reminder to Senate Democrats about how uncertain their majority is.

Anxious Democrats want Biden
Anxious Democrats want Biden

Though Senate Democrats were wishing to move rapidly even before Luján announced his extended absence.

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) was waiting for moving Biden’s nominee on an accelerated timeline, a move similar to what Senate Republicans confirmed conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court in October 2020.

Barrett was given confirmation 30 days later former President Trump nominated her to replace late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Right after Justice Stephen Breyer announced his retirement, Schumer stated on January 26 that his successor “will be considered and confirmed by the full U.S. Senate with all deliberate speed.”

Then Biden lost speed on what appeared to be a fast process with the announcement made the following day, January 27, that he would select a nominee by the end of February.

Democratic lawmakers took that in pace, but their tension increased when they learned a few days after that Luján had gone through a stroke and also had decompressive surgery. The senator rushed to a hospital the morning of January 27 after suffering dizziness and fatigue, the day following news came that Breyer would retire.

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The Biggest Problem Is Republicans Could Find Ways to Slow This Down

Steve Jarding, a Democratic strategist, and former Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee adviser, stated that Democrats are still terrified by the memory of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) taking open the seat of the late Justice Antonin Scalia for about a year by declining to provide Garland a hearing or a vote.

He said “I think the biggest issue would be the fear that Republicans could find ways to slow this down. Democrats lived through a situation where they had what seemed like a ton of time on the clock, and pretty soon the clock ran out and Obama didn’t get his pick.

I know circumstances were different but the history is still pretty fresh,” adding “Like Sen. Luján, what if something happened?”

Senate Democrats also see a political requirement to speed up on a high-profile concern following they spent months putting efforts on Biden’s Build Back Better agenda and voting rights rule, two issues dear to the party’s liberal base and returned empty-handed.

Marge Baker, the chief strategist on judicial confirmations at People for the American Way, a liberal advocacy group said “I think it’s important to move forward, I think there’s momentum here,” adding “My assumption is the president and his staff has been looking at this for a long time because he had some idea of what he wanted to do when there was a vacancy. There is a deep bench [of candidates] that they’re going to so why to wait?” 

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s legislation states that nine members of the group, along with two members of the minority, have to be present to transact business and no bill or nominee shall be ordered reported from the committee except if a majority of the committee is available.

This stems from the probability that Republicans could attempt to drag things out with procedural tactics, like boycotting committee meetings to refuse the Democrats a quorum.

Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), a conservative member of the Judiciary Committee, cautioned earlier this month that he and other Republicans aren’t likely to let the nominee zip through the vetting procedure.

Earlier this month he told reporters “This process needs to be thorough, and it needs to be serious,” adding “This is a 50-50 Senate, so they’re not going to be able to ramrod anybody through.”

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Who Can Be the Preference of Biden?

The capability for Republican obstacles has raised the assumption that Biden may pick J. Michelle Childs, a federal judge for the district of South Carolina.

Graham’s backing would immensely soar the likelihood of Biden’s nominee making it to the floor without much deferment and getting bipartisan backing for a final confirmation vote.

Earlier this month, Graham said that he “can’t think of a better person for President Biden to consider” and appreciated her as “fair-minded” and “highly gifted.”

In another interview, he added, “I think we could get a good vote from Republicans if she did well at the hearing.”

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