The White House is using Republicans’ own rhetoric from past Supreme Court confirmation proceedings to rebut some of the criticisms conservatives have levied on President BidenJoe BidenUS cyber defense agency warns of possible Russian cyberattacks amid tensions Afghans protest US order to free up .5B in frozen Afghanistan funds to compensate 9/11 victims Sunday shows preview: White House says Russia could invade ‘any day’; RNC censure resolution receives backlash MORE as he prepares to nominate a successor to fill the vacancy created by Justice Stephen BreyerStephen BreyerFirst Black federal judge in Alabama asks Biden not to nominate Ketanji Brown Jackson to Supreme Court New Mexico lawmakers consider criminal penalties to protect judges from threats A new Supreme Court justice’s dissent on abortion could be game-changing MORE’s retirement.
The White House has been proactive about reaching out to Republicans and courting the support of senators who might reach across the aisle to back Biden’s eventual pick. But officials have been just as quick to cite the GOP’s own comments praising the choice of a woman to fill a seat on the high court during the confirmation process in which former President TrumpDonald TrumpGiuliani in discussions with Jan. 6 committee about testifying: report Rapper Kodak Black, three others wounded in shooting outside California bar Sunday shows preview: White House says Russia could invade ‘any day’; RNC censure resolution receives backlash MORE chose Justice Amy Coney BarrettAmy Coney BarrettPlaying the race card is an injustice — especially with the Supreme Court Will Republicans apply the ‘Barrett rule’ to Biden’s nominee? The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – States lifting mask mandates in schools MORE to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.
The White House is also dismantling suggestions that Biden should be deferring to the Senate more or expanding his search, pointing out that GOP senators in the past have said a Supreme Court pick is at the discretion of the president.
The strategy marks a preview of some of the tactics Democrats might use to undercut arguments from Republicans once Biden puts forward his nominee, which is expected to happen by the end of February.
A handful of Republicans have already suggested Biden’s yet-to-be-named nominee will be opposed just by the president’s pledge to nominate a Black woman to the court. The White House has been quick to point to Trump, who said he would nominate a woman to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgA new Supreme Court justice’s dissent on abortion could be game-changing Playing the race card is an injustice — especially with the Supreme Court Will Republicans apply the ‘Barrett rule’ to Biden’s nominee? MORE when she died in September 2020.
Sen. Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerOn The Money — Inflation hits highest rate since February 1982 Stock trading ban gains steam but splits Senate GOP The Hill’s 12:30 Report: Blue states continue to loosen COVID-19 restrictions MORE (R-Miss.) in a radio interview last month suggested whoever Biden chose to replace Breyer would be a “beneficiary” of affirmative action.
“The irony is that the Supreme Court is at the very same time hearing cases about this sort of affirmative racial discrimination while adding someone who is the beneficiary of this sort of quota,” Wicker said in an interview on SuperTalk Mississippi radio.
The White House in turn used Wicker’s own comments upon the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the court in 2020.
“When the previous president followed through on his own promise to place a woman on the Supreme Court, Senator Wicker said, ‘I have five granddaughters, the oldest one is 10. I think Justice Amy Coney Barrett will prove to be an inspiration to these five granddaughters and to my grown daughters,’” deputy White House press secretary Andrew Bates said in response to Wicker.
Barrett’s confirmation proceedings also came up when the White House looked to bat down criticism from Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzThe Senate confirmation scandal is a liability to US foreign relations The Memo: Americans brace for Canada-style COVID-19 protests Russia sanctions talks at ‘impasse’ as time runs short MORE (R-Texas), who called it “offensive” that Biden was excluding other candidates from the outset by promising to nominate a Black woman.
White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiFive obstacles Biden faces in battle against inflation On The Money: Border blockade hits US economy Five things to know as US warns Russia could invade Ukraine ‘any day now’ MORE responded by noting that Cruz appeared to have no issue when Trump said he would choose a woman to replace Ginsburg.
Psaki went on to cite Cruz’s own comments during Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing, when he said “I think you’re an amazing role model for little girls. What advice would you give little girls?”
The White House has similarly used a Republican favorite – former President Ronald Reagan – to debunk arguments like the ones from Cruz and some of his colleagues. Psaki and others have highlighted Reagan’s promise to nominate a woman to the Supreme Court, which he did when he tapped former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
While Biden officials note the lack of Republican resistance to promises from the likes of Trump or Reagan to nominate a certain type of judge to the Supreme Court, they may similarly look to highlight comments from senators who have in the past suggested a president deserves broad deference when picking a Supreme Court justice.
Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSunday shows preview: White House says Russia could invade ‘any day’; RNC censure resolution receives backlash Hillicon Valley — Panel advances controversial tech bill Senate passes bill ending forced arbitration in sexual misconduct cases MORE (R-S.C.) in a floor speech at the time of Barrett’s nomination lamented that the Senate no longer judged a candidate solely on their credentials.
“We looked at the qualifications and said, ‘OK you’re good to go, you’re a person of integrity, you’re smart, you’re well-rounded, you’re knowledgeable in the law,” Graham said in the October 2020 speech. “You may have a different philosophy than I have but we understand elections matter’ and everybody accepted the election outcome.”
Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOn The Money — Inflation hits highest rate since February 1982 Three indicted following investigation into illegal donation scheme to Collins campaign, PAC Senators introduce a resolution honoring Tom Brady’s career MORE (R-Maine) delivered remarks in 2017 during Justice Neil GorsuchNeil GorsuchSotomayor: Threat to Supreme Court unprecedented due to partisanship The Supreme Court needs a code of ethics Budowsky: Trump-like high court would create powerful midterm repercussions MORE’s confirmation proceedings in which she said the president “has wide discretion when it comes to his nominations to the Supreme Court. The Senate’s role is not to ask, ‘Is this the person whom I would have chosen to sit on the bench?’ Rather, the Senate is charged with evaluating each nominee’s qualifications for serving on the Court.”
Just after Breyer announced his retirement, however, Collins said she believed Biden had politicized the process by promising to choose a Black woman to serve on the high court during his campaign as opposed to when Trump and Reagan indicted they would do so.
“It adds to the further perception that the court is a political institution like Congress when it is not supposed to be. So I certainly am open to whomever he decides to nominate. My job as a senator is to evaluate the qualifications of that person under the advice and consent role,” Collins said.
White House officials have been in touch with Collins as Biden vets potential choices, and Graham has strongly advocated for Judge J. Michelle Childs, who sits on the federal bench in his home state of South Carolina. Graham has also been among the Republicans who have said they have no issue with Biden’s pledge to nominate a Black woman.
“Put me in the camp of making sure the court and other institutions look like America,” Graham said recently. “You know, we make a real effort as Republicans to recruit women and people of color to make the party look more like America.”
While officials acknowledge they won’t win over hardliners like Cruz in a nomination fight, the White House has still been aggressive in engaging with Republicans to solicit input and keep them informed on the process.
Biden met with Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyPhotos of the Week: Marking COVID-19 deaths, Mt. Etna and Olympic snowboarders On The Money — Inflation hits highest rate since February 1982 Stock trading ban gains steam but splits Senate GOP MORE (R-Iowa), the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, and he spoke on the phone with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell-McCarthy split heading into November Klobuchar on 2 GOP lawmakers censured: ‘To me, they’ve been patriots’ Pence to give commencement address at South Carolina university MORE (R-Ky.).
“He’s going to choose a nominee whose qualifications, record, character, and devotion to the Constitution and rule of law make them deserving of support on — from both sides of the aisle,” Psaki said Wednesday. “And there are many candidates at the top of their fields who fit that profile and who have received bipartisan support in the past.
“The President is certainly seeking input, seeking feedback,” she added. “But he is treating the process as he believes it should be treated, which is with seriousness, which is approaching it from a bipartisan manner and seeking engagement and advice from a range of officials, elected and non-elected.”
–Updated at 9:00 a.m.