Senate GOP sets high bar to support Biden’s Supreme Court pick

Republicans are not yet moved — and it’s unclear if they ever will be.

Plus a number of Republicans say the nominee’s history-making credentials — being an African American woman — are not enough to sway them.

“I think the important thing is that this is someone who will uphold the Constitution faithfully, regardless of their ethnic background or gender or anything else,” Sen. Josh Hawley, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told CNN. “I think it sends the wrong signal to say that, ‘Well if a person is of a certain ethnic background, that we don’t care what their record is, we don’t care what their substantive beliefs are.’ That would be extraordinary.”

Biden commits to nominating nation's first Black female Supreme Court justice as he honors retiring Breyer

Biden said Thursday the diverse background of his pick won’t be the only factor, vowing to nominate a justice with “extraordinary qualifications, character, experience and integrity.”

But Hawley added that Republicans can’t let the nominee sail through without a “thorough” vetting.

“In a year, when Republicans are asking voters to return control of the Senate to them, I would hope that Republicans would want to prove that the Senate matters,” the Missouri Republican said.

While some Republicans may ultimately back Biden’s pick, a number of GOP Senate sources believe that it would only be a handful at most — underscoring the polarizing nature of the modern Supreme Court confirmation process after years of intense and viciously partisan battles.

“I want a judge who understands that the Bill of Rights is not an à la carte menu,” Sen. John Kennedy, a Republican from Louisiana who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in an interview Thursday. “I want a judge who will not try to rewrite the Constitution every other Thursday to advance a political agenda. I guess what I’m saying is I want a judge who understands and appreciates Madisonian separation of powers.”

Asked about the fact that Biden is poised to pick an African American woman, Kennedy said: “I’m going to judge the nominee on his or her qualifications, on the basis of the criteria I just gave you.”

Speaking to reporters in Mayfield, Kentucky, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell would not directly answer when asked about Biden’s assessment that it was long overdue to nominate a Black woman to the court.

Biden said he will put a Black woman on the Supreme Court. Here's who he may pick to replace Breyer

“I’m going to give the President’s nominee, whoever that might be, a fair look and not predict today when I don’t even know who the nominee is how I might vote,” the GOP leader said.

But in a separate statement Thursday, McConnell issued a warning to Biden.

“The President must not outsource this important decision to the radical left,” McConnell said.

On the campaign trail, the GOP assessment is even more negative.

“Far more important than the race or gender of any judicial nominee, is their commitment to uphold our Constitution,” said Mark Brnovich, the Arizona attorney general and a Senate GOP candidate.

Added Mehmet Oz, the Republican Senate hopeful in Pennsylvania: “Based on the policies of division and control that have marked Joe Biden’s first year in office, and the names being floated, I’m worried he will put forth someone who will legislate from the bench with radical ideas.”

Some Republicans may back Biden pick

If Democrats stay unified, the nominee can win confirmation on their votes alone. With that fact, combined with the likelihood that the nominee won’t impact the court’s 6-3 ideological balance, some Republicans are uncertain how vocal to be in opposing the nomination — especially given the favorable midterm environment they are now encountering.

Plus it is still possible that the nominee could win some Republican votes. There are a handful of GOP senators who voted for some of the names on the Supreme Court short list back when they were nominated to lower court positions.

GOP Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Susan Collins of Maine all voted for Ketanji Brown Jackson last summer when she was confirmed as a circuit court judge on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the second most important court in the country.

How the Supreme Court confirmation process works
Another potential nominee is Judge Wilhelmina “Mimi” Wright, who in 2016 was also confirmed to her district judgeship with the support of some Republicans still serving: Collins and Sens. Joni Ernst of Iowa and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia.

In 2010, J. Michelle Childs was confirmed for her district court spot by a voice vote. And Rep. Jim Clyburn, a Democrat from South Carolina who has been pushing Biden for two years for her selection, told CNN he has spoken to both South Carolina GOP senators — Graham and Tim Scott — and believes they both would back her.

“They’re both South Carolinians, they both know Michelle Childs, and they both know that she has strong credentials on both sides of the aisle,” Clyburn said Thursday.

Scott’s spokesperson, Caroline Anderegg, said in a statement Thursday, “Senator Scott is aware of Michelle Childs’ respected reputation as a judge in South Carolina, which…

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