The assumption up until now has been that when President Biden eventually names whichever “person without a Y chromosome” and with the appropriate skin tone required for the position as his pick to replace Stephen Breyer on the Supreme Court, the Senate Democrats would be able to force the nomination through on their own with Kamala Harris breaking an expected tie. But they’d really prefer to not have to do that. Biden can paint his nominee with the patina of “bipartisanship” if they can manage to get even one or two Republican senators to vote for her. Will they be able to do it? Majority Whip Dick Durbin was out there spreading some birdseed around as soon as the announcement of Breyer’s retirement went public and one of the first people he called was Susan Collins. From the sound of her appraisal of the call, Durbin may have already struck pay dirt. (The Hill)
Within an hour of the news breaking about Justice Stephen Breyer’s intention to retire, GOP Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) got a phone call from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).
“He called me … to assure me that he would make the nominee available to me and that he would provide me with any documents or information that I needed,” Collins told The Hill about Durbin’s outreach, which she graded as “terrific.”
The White House and top Democrats are working to woo GOP senators, like Collins, as they lay the groundwork for the upcoming Supreme Court fight.
You might think it somewhat remarkable that the “negotiations” have moved along that far when we still have no idea of the identity of the nominee. But I suppose that’s just politics in the 21st century for you. Obviously, Collins isn’t committing to a vote either way at this stage, but if she’s describing the phone call with Durbin as “terrific,” she’s clearly open to the idea. And she’ll be getting head of the line privileges for an in-person meeting with the nominee among Republicans and possibly ahead of the Democrats as well.
It’s worth noting that throughout the country’s history, we managed to make it until 2020 before we ever had a Supreme Court justice confirmed without a single vote from the opposing party. But it was the Democrats who decided to establish that precedent when considering an eminently qualified woman for the court. I fail to see why any member of the Senate GOP, including Collins, would want to do them any favors now and toss any votes to confirm Biden’s pick.
Some observers have been speculating that Mitch McConnell might toss Biden’s nominee a vote just for the look of things. And Biden has been buttering up McConnell lately, likely at least in part in anticipation of asking his “old friend” for a favor when the SCOTUS confirmation vote comes around. But Midnight Mitch has already been in enough trouble with Donald Trump lately and he may want to sit this one out.
Chuck Grassley and Lindsey Graham were also receiving calls from the White House about the confirmation process. It’s not impossible that either of them might toss in a vote for Biden’s nominee, but from the sounds of their initial comments, I wouldn’t bet any large amount of money on it. Grassley did promise “a thorough and respectful vetting,” but nothing more than that. Graham seemed to go a bit further, urging Biden to pick Michelle Childs and saying that any of the other candidates on the shortlist would be “more problematic.” Does that mean that he’s a yes vote if Childs gets the nod? Possibly.
But as I previously wrote here, this isn’t the hill that the GOP wants to die on and the final result won’t shift the balance of the court. Whether the nominee gets any GOP votes or not, I still think it’s best to handle the matter quickly and without a lot of drama and get on with the business of taking the Senate back in November. That needs to be the focus now, not a futile fight over Biden’s nominee that the Democrats will only spin to their political advantage this fall.
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