What will the Republicans do?
Republicans find themselves in a challenging spot. They have to determine how hard to fight President Biden’s Supreme Court nominee with the limited options at their disposal to delay or disrupt the process.
Biden’s pick, who he has confirmed will be a Black woman, represents the first time since 2017 –– when the GOP got rid of the 60-vote threshold –– that a Supreme Court nominee would be selected without Republicans control of the chamber or a President in the White House. The result: Biden getting to nominate a candidate by the end of February without Republican support.
But with the added pressure of the upcoming midterms, Republicans have to consider if an attempt to sink the nominee will be worthwhile, especially as Democrats only need one Republican vote to claim the confirmation was bipartisan.
Given the historic nature of Biden’s pick, a fight without any substantial ground could be damaging.
Speaking on the matter, executive director of Demand Justice Brian Fallon said Democrats have “a decent chance of getting Republican votes for this pick,” adding that he didn’t suspect the GOP to “be on a war footing on this one.”
In 2016, when former Democratic President Barack Obama made a Supreme Court nomination, Mitch McConnell (R-KY.), who was the Senate Majority leader at the time, prevented Merrick Garland’s nomination.
Then, in 2017, with Republicans holding the Presidency and Senate, the GOP removed the Supreme Court nominee 60-vote threshold, allowing them to confirm conservative justices Neil Gorsuch with only three votes from Dems, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett in record speed, after the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Now, the shoe is on the other foot, and Democrats have the power the GOP once held to nominate and confirm justices with limited bipartisan support, requiring the GOP to be strategic about how they choose to fight this.
Since the GOP remains bullish about regaining congressional majorities, McConnell is keeping all of his attention on Biden in an effort to make the November elections a “referendum” on Biden’s presidency.
This focus on Biden means Republicans have marginal room for error themselves, reflected in McConnell’s strategic talking points.
Initially, he warned Biden against outsourcing the nominee selection but changed his stance when questioned by reporters in Kentucky, choosing instead to say he would “give the president’s nominee — whoever that may be — a fair look,” saying that he would “not predict today when we don’t even know who the nominee is” how he would vote.
This tentative approach aside, Republicans are unlikely to vote for Biden’s nominee. But have to consider how obstructive they will be doing so. Conservative and liberal pundits believe a less obstructive approach would be most beneficial, considering the upcoming elections.
Speaking on the matter, Ed Whelan, a conservative court watcher and a senior fellow for the Ethics and Public Policy Center, stated that Republicans should not aim to defeat the nomination “unless Biden messes up.” Instead, he said, their goal should be “to continue to win public debate over judicial philosophy and inflict political costs.”