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Senate Judiciary Chairman Richard Durbin admitted on Sunday that age ‘is a factor’ his committee will weigh when vetting President Joe Biden‘s prospective nominees to fill outgoing Justice Stephen Breyer’s seat on the Supreme Court.
‘It’s a factor, I’m not going to mislead you, in the selection of judges at every level,’ Durbin told NBC’s Meet The Press when asked about Democrats looking for someone younger for the lifetime appointment.
‘ I have a lot of friends here in Chicago who are attorneys in their 60s, who would like to cap off their career by being a federal judge — it doesn’t really make sense, you know, when you consider how little time they’re likely to serve before they reach senior status or leave completely.’
In another television interview on ABC, the number two Democrat in the Senate also defended Biden’s decision to appoint a black woman to the bench after a new poll showed Americans are more interested in getting the most qualified person for the job.
‘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, and it was Donald Trump who announced that he was going to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg with a woman nominee as well,’ Durbin said, referring to Trump’s third appointment to the high court, Justice Amy Coney Barrett.
‘So this is not the first time that a president has signaled what they’re looking for in a nominee.’
In a pair of television interviews, the Senate Judiciary Chair defended Joe Biden trying to follow through on his campaign promise of appointing a black woman to the Supreme Court
Biden is looking for a young liberal judge to elevate onto the high court after Justice Stephen Breyer announced his retirement
Durbin claimed that any black woman who has reached the level to be considered for the high court has ‘done it against great odds.’
‘They’re extraordinary people, usually the first of anything in the United States turns out to be extraordinary in their background. And the same is true there,’ he said.
‘They’re all going to face the same close scrutiny. This is a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land, and I just hope that those who are critical of the president’s selection aren’t doing it for personal reasons.’
Breyer, 83, announced he was stepping down from the bench last week, after mounting pressure to retire so Biden could appoint a younger liberal in his place.
The president said he would use the opportunity to fulfill his campaign promise to appoint the first ever black female justice.
And whoever Biden picks will have to appear before Durbin’s panel for what’s sure to be a tense confirmation hearing as Republicans accuse Democrat of playing identity politics by looking for a black woman to fill the role.
Moderate GOP Senator Susan Collins, who is not on the panel but will be voting on whether to confirm the appointee along with her colleagues in the upper chamber, said she would ‘welcome’ a black woman on the court but claimed Biden was ‘politicizing’ the process.
‘I believe that diversity benefits the Supreme Court,’ Collins told ABC host George Stephanopoulos.
‘But the way that the president has handled this nomination has been clumsy at best. It adds to the further perception that the court is a political institution like Congress when it is not supposed to be.’
She also took issue with Durbin’s earlier comparison of Biden’s process to Reagan appointing Sandra Day O’Connor.
‘Actually, this 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.
‘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.’
It appears a vast majority of Americans are on their side, according to a new ABC News/Ipsos poll released on Sunday.
The survey shows 76 percent of respondents preferring Biden ‘consider all possible nominees’ compared to just 23 percent who said they want him to ‘consider only nominees who are Black women, as he has pledged to do.’
It would be Biden’s first Supreme Court appointment. Donald Trump put three justices on the bench during his four-year term, giving the court a conservative supermajority
Biden’s promise even failed to gain much traction among Democrat voters, 54 percent of whom said they wanted the president to find the best person for the role regardless of race. The number is even smaller among nonwhite voters, at 28 percent.
But one unlikely ally the president has is Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who said even his party was making a ‘real effort’ to find more women and minorities for key spots.
‘Put me in the camp of making sure the court and other institutions look like America. You know, we make a real effort as Republicans to recruit women and people of color to make the party look more like America. Affirmative action is picking somebody not as well qualified for past wrongs,’ Graham said on CBS News this Sunday.
GOP Senator Roger Wicker called Biden’s pledge an ‘affirmative action quota pick,’ and former Trump UN Ambassador Nikki Haley tweeted: ‘Would be nice if President Biden chose a Supreme Court nominee who is best qualified without a race/gender litmus test.’
Federal judicial nominees need just a simply majority in the Senate to be confirmed to the bench, meaning Biden will either need every Democrat to vote in lock-step or court at least one Republican lawmaker.