Biden taps veteran team to guide historic Supreme Court nomination

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden has tapped a team of White House advisers with long Supreme Court and Senate confirmation experience as he prepares to appoint the first black woman to be a judge. associated.

REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Biden will consult closely with Vice President Kamala Harris in a selection process that will be led in part by Chief of Staff Ron Klain, White House Counsel Dana Remus, Senior Counsel Paige Herwig and Senior Advisor Cedric Richmond, the White House said.

The team will have to guide Biden’s choice through what could be a deadly confirmation process for Republicans who hold 50 Senate seats, while dealing with Democratic groups, from lawmakers to lawyers, who have a stake in his decision. .

Biden would have to work from a list of about 10 people or fewer to choose a candidate. The White House could begin contacting and potentially meeting with potential Supreme Court picks as early as next week.

On Thursday, Biden said he plans to appoint a black woman to the post, a historic first he called “long overdue.”

Activists had urged incumbent Justice Stephen Breyer, 83, to retire to ensure Biden gets an unfettered choice on the Supreme Court while Democrats control the Senate.

“We don’t want to take our time with this,” said Brian Fallon, executive director of advocacy group Demand Justice, welcoming a quick process. Breyer gave us a “little gift” with his announcement earlier this year, allowing the process to start now and avoid obstacles, like a senator catching COVID-19, that could derail it later.

November’s midterm elections could give Republicans control of the Senate, making it harder for any Biden nominee to win the simple majority vote needed for the lifetime Supreme Court seat.

RBG, ALITO

Klain, who worked for Biden when he served on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, has a long history of Supreme Court appointments. He served as a “sherpa” or guide through the confirmation process for former Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in 2020. She and Breyer were selected by former President Bill Clinton.

Remus served as clerk under Associate Justice Samuel Alito and Herwig has overseen a flurry of judicial nominations and confirmations since Biden took office, resulting in the most presidents in his first year since Ronald Reagan.

Biden himself chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee from 1987 to 1995.

“It’s hard to find a more proven team than President Biden’s to work on the Supreme Court nomination,” said Anita Dunn, Biden’s former senior adviser. The president will likely spend much of his personal time reading the rulings and opinions of judicial nominees, she said.

Names expected to be on Biden’s list include Ketanji Brown Jackson, a federal judge; California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger; and Sherrilyn Ifill, a prominent civil rights lawyer who heads the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

REPUBLICANS ON BOARD?

White House officials have yet to select a “sherpa” to accompany a candidate to Capitol familiarization meetings, and have not ruled out picking a Republican, a source familiar with the matter said.

The White House believes Harris has the power to break a tie vote on a Supreme Court pick in a Senate split evenly between Democrats and Republicans, but believes it may cause some Republicans to back Biden’s pick and make an unnecessary tiebreaker, the source mentioned.

Senate Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer pledged here to make the confirmation process as short as one month. Biden has said he intends to announce his nominee before the end of February.

The White House sees no need to follow Schumer’s 30-day push for confirmation, especially since Breyer will remain on the bench until June, the source familiar with the process said.

The White House might need more time. Biden’s team will need to review candidates’ qualifications, conclude vetting procedures, appease senators pushing for candidates from their home countries, and meet with civil rights groups and other parties interested in the candidate. .

“Managing all of this is a pretty big effort,” he said Andy Wright, a former member of Biden’s transition team who is now a partner at K&L Gates.

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