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Senators spar over Biden’s pledge to pick Black woman for SCOTUS seat

Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin on Sunday defended President Joe Biden’s plan to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court, despite blowback from Senate Republicans and new polling suggesting most Americans want the White House to consider candidates regardless of race and gender.

In an interview on ABC’s “This Week,” Durbin (D-Ill.) responded to Biden’s critics by citing pledges from previous Republican presidents to select female nominees to fill Supreme Court vacancies.

“I’d remind them to take a look back at history and recall that it was Ronald Reagan who announced that he was going to appoint a woman to the Supreme Court. And he did, Sandra Day O’Connor,” Durbin said, referring to the first woman confirmed to the Supreme Court in 1981.

“And it was Donald Trump who announced that he was going to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg with a woman nominee, as well,” Durbin continued, referring to Trump’s selection of Amy Coney Barrett. “So this is not the first time that a president has signaled what they’re looking for in a nominee.”

Biden announced on the 2020 campaign trail that he would nominate the nation’s first-ever Black female Supreme Court justice if elected, and he reaffirmed that commitment at a White House event last Thursday with retiring Justice Stephen Breyer.

“While I’ve been studying candidates’ backgrounds and writings, I’ve made no decisions except one,” Biden said. “The person I will nominate will be someone with extraordinary qualifications, character, experience and integrity, and that person will be the first Black woman ever nominated to the United States Supreme Court.”

According to an ABC News/Ipsos poll published on Sunday, however, an overwhelming majority of Americans surveyed — 76 percent — believe Biden should “consider all possible nominees.” Only 23 percent of respondents said Biden should “consider only nominees who are Black women, as he has pledged to do.”

Senate Republicans and conservative media also have criticized Biden’s commitment to nominate a Black woman, with Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) suggesting in a local radio interview on Friday that whomever the president picks will be a “beneficiary” of affirmative action.

On Sunday, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said on ABC that she “would welcome the appointment of a Black female” to the Supreme Court but accused Biden of mishandling and politicizing the process to select Breyer’s replacement.

“I believe that diversity benefits the Supreme Court, but the way that the president has handled this nomination has been clumsy at best,” Collins said. “It adds to the further perception that the court is a political institution like Congress, when it is not supposed to be.”

Collins went on to reject Durbin’s comparison of Biden’s pledge to past statements by Reagan and Trump regarding Supreme Court vacancies, arguing, “actually, it isn’t exactly the same.”

“I’ve looked at what was done in both cases, and what President Biden did was — as a candidate — make this pledge. And that helped politicize the entire nomination process,” Collins said. “But what President Reagan said is — as one of his Supreme Court justices — he would like to appoint a woman, and he appointed a highly qualified one in Sandra Day O’Connor.”

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