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Progressives look for progressive bona fides for Biden’s Supreme Court nominee

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Progressive Democrats have a clear message to President Joe Biden for whomever he nominates to the Supreme Court: Nominating a Black woman is not enough.

Democrats from the left flank of Mr Biden’s party are beginning to lay out their demands for what type of person they would want to see replace Justice Stephen Breyer, the court’s eldest liberal who announced his retirement last month.

“We want somebody that is going to be reflective of the needs of working families and understands that we are moving toward an oligarchy in this country and their corporate interests with enormous power,” Sen Bernie Sanders, the runner-up for the Democratic nomination for president, told reporters on Tuesday.

“I didn’t mention any names but I think that we need a supreme court justice who understands enormous economic pressures working families are under and understands the incredible power that the masters of the universe and corporate interests have over this country and is prepared to stand up,” he said. When asked if he had discussed this with the White House, he said, “Yes”.

Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York told The Independent that there was a wealth of potentially qualified nominees.

“Of course, there is just an absolute abundance of legal genius, and Black women legal genius in this country, so I also think we need to make sure that the nominee is also advancing the administration’s values,” she said. “That they’re pro-labour, that they will be a champion for voting rights and for protection of people’s ability to vote and also organise their workplace, among many other things. Environmental issues will also be huge I imagine.”

The progressives’ demands come as House Minority Whip James Clyburn has lobbied aggressively for fellow South Carolinian J Michelle Childs. Mr Clyburn, the highest-ranking Black House member, said in the past that Mr Biden’s pledge to nominate a Black woman sealed his endorsement that helped the president win the South Carolina primary, which catapulted him to the Democratic nomination for president.

Similarly, South Carolina’s Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott have praised Ms Childs, which could ease some concerns. But The Washington Post reported some progressives worry about how she’s represented corporations in labor cases.

Other potential nominees include people like Ketanji Brown-Jackson, who worked as a public defender and is a judge on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and Leondra Kruger, an associate justice for California’s Supreme Court.

Sen Tim Kaine, a moderate from Virginia, said that he was impressed with the breadth of experience of some of the potential nominees, noting how the Supreme Court hasn’t seen a state supreme court justice since Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman justice.

“So you people who have been appellate lawyers, but you also see people who have been trial lawyers, trial judges. You see people whose careers have been in the Acela Corridor but also folks who haven’t been,” he said.

“So I think I’ll wait and comment on the nominee once he announces one but, at least in looking at the people that he has supposedly considering I like the fact that he is broadening the pool beyond sort of what the norm is.”

Mr Kaine also said that he would be open to someone who is a former public defender.

“I think it’s a great skillset that the court’s missing right now,” he told The Independent. Ms Ocasio-Cortez repeated the sentiment.

“I think a public defender is a wonderful background to pick from but there are also many other backgrounds that I think can be well-suited for public service as well,” she said.

But Rep Ilhan Omar of Minnesota was more reserved when asked about what she expected.

“I just want to see what the list of people he’s putting forward are and what their previous history has been,” Ms Omar, who is the whip for the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told The Independent. “I think we want to see people who apply the Constitution in the most fairest way.”

Sen Raphael Warnock of Georgia, who is up for reelection and has prioritised voting rights, said voting rights would be an important focus for him in any nominee.

“I expect him to nominate someone who’s eminently qualified, who will bring not only their expertise but their life experience at a time when we’re seeing a full assault on voting rights, on worker rights and on the strength of our democracy.”


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