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Dems Eye SCOTUS Pick to Help Prospects 01/27 06:08

   Democrats stung by a series of election year failures to deliver legislative 
wins for their most loyal voters hope they'll be buoyed by the prospect that 
President Joe Biden will name the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme 
Court.

   (AP) -- Democrats stung by a series of election year failures to deliver 
legislative wins for their most loyal voters hope they'll be buoyed by the 
prospect that President Joe Biden will name the first Black woman to serve on 
the Supreme Court.

   Justice Stephen Breyer's pending retirement, confirmed by numerous sources 
on Wednesday, couldn't have come at a better time for a Democratic Party 
reeling from the collapse of Biden's legislative agenda last week, including a 
push to overhaul election laws that voting rights advocates said was critical 
to protecting democracy.

   As Democrats regroup with an eye on maintaining a tenuous grip on Congress 
after November's midterm elections, the prospect of naming Breyer's replacement 
offered an opportunity to pause from those bruising battles. Seeing Biden's 
campaign pledge to appoint the first Black woman to the Supreme Court 
fulfilled, Democrats hope they can energize a dejected base, particularly Black 
voters whose support will be crucial in the fall campaign.

   "This is a huge opportunity for us," said Aimee Allison, founder of She the 
People, a national organization that encourages women of color to vote. "It 
turns out that appointing a Black woman (to the Supreme Court) at this moment 
could help to make up for the policy and political losses that we've seen 
recently."

   "It's a win," Allison said.

   Among the names being circulated as potential nominees are California 
Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger, U.S. Circuit Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, 
prominent civil rights lawyer Sherrilyn Ifill and U.S. District Judge Michelle 
Childs, whom Biden has nominated to be an appeals court judge. Childs is a 
favorite of Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., who made a crucial endorsement of Biden 
just before South Carolina's presidential primary in 2020.

   The exact timing of Breyer's retirement remains unclear, but Senate 
Democrats who control the confirmation process plan to begin the proceedings as 
soon as possible.

   Despite that energetic push, there are risks for Biden and his party that 
could jeopardize any apparent political advantages born of an election-year 
Supreme Court vacancy.

   Replacing Breyer won't ultimately change the court's 6-3 conservative 
majority, which has stymied Biden on major priorities including his recent 
vaccine and testing mandate for large businesses.

   And if every Senate Republican unites to oppose the nominee, the president 
would need to secure support from every Democrat in the chamber. That could 
potentially revive recent fights in which moderate Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin 
of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema bucked the party and defeated its 
priorities.

   In a statement Wednesday, Manchin made clear he would scrutinize the pick.

   "I take my Constitutional responsibility to advise and consent on a nominee 
to the Supreme Court very seriously," he said. "I look forward to meeting with 
and evaluating the qualifications of President Biden's nominee to fill this 
Supreme Court vacancy."

   Republicans, who privately conceded Wednesday's development may help 
Democrats in the short term, were quick to signal that they would cast the 
nominee as too far to the left no matter whom Biden selects.

   "The Democrats know they will lose the Senate majority in 2022," said 
Florida Sen. Rick Scott, who leads the Senate GOP's campaign arm. "I predict 
that Chuck Schumer and whoever is running the White House will force all 
Democrats to obey and walk the plank in support of a radical liberal with 
extremist views."

   Indeed, the development was most expected to influence the fight for the 
Senate majority, where Democrats have the slimmest possible majority.

   Vulnerable Democratic incumbents from New Hampshire to Nevada seized on the 
upcoming Supreme Court confirmation debate, highlighting abortion rights in 
particular.

   The high court's conservative majority in December signaled openness to 
dramatic restrictions on abortion and may even overturn the landmark Roe v. 
Wade precedent. A decision is expected by the summer.

   "The next justice must understand how their decisions impact the Nevadans I 
fight for every day, and that is especially true when it comes to women's 
reproductive rights," said Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, the Nevada Democrat who 
faces a challenging reelection test in a state where voters largely support 
abortion rights.

   It's much the same dynamic in New Hampshire for Democratic Sen. Jeanne 
Shaheen.

   "There is so much at stake for Americans today that will be directly 
affected by the U.S. Supreme Court, from women's reproductive freedom to 
safeguarding civil liberties for all Americans and ensuring equal access to the 
ballot box," she said. "I look forward to reviewing President Biden's choice."

   And while the politics may initially benefit Democrats, Republicans wasted 
no time in seizing on the looming Supreme Court vacancy to raise campaign cash.

   Soon after news of Breyer's pending retirement was released, the Republican 
National Committee blasted out a fundraising email announcing the creation of 
an "Official Defend the Court Fund."

   "Make NO mistake -- Biden will pick a nominee that is pro-abortion, anti-gun 
and anti-religious liberty," the GOP warned.

   Still, there was a palpable sense of relief and optimism among Democrats, 
including those who have grown frustrated with the slow pace of change under 
Biden.

   "It's not a silver bullet, but my God, this is a big deal, man," said Young 
Democrats of America President Quentin Wathum-Ocama, who has been critical of 
the Biden presidency. "This is huge for so many reasons. It's going to get 
people excited."

   Democrats need all the help they can get.

   JB Poersch, who leads a super PAC aligned with Senate Democrats, said the 
nomination fight may help motivate Democratic voters -- especially if 
Republicans try to interfere with the nomination process -- but there are no 
guarantees.

   "We have no room for error," he said.

 
 
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