Republican Vote Needed to Confirm Biden Justice?
New Mexico Senator Ben Ray Luján is hospitalized with a stroke.
News I somehow missed, via McClatchy (“Clyburn counts the votes, sees Biden needing GOP support for Supreme Court nominee“):
President Joe Biden’s nominee to the Supreme Court will need Republican support to receive Senate confirmation, a leading Democratic lawmaker said Friday.
Democrats are down to 49 votes in the chamber, following the hospitalization of New Mexico Sen. Ben Ray Luján. Luján had a stroke, his office said in a statement.
Congressman Jim Clyburn, the chief Democratic vote counter in the House of Representatives, told McClatchy in an interview on Friday that Luján’s absence means that Republican votes will be needed to muscle Biden’s soon-to-be named Supreme Court nominee through the Senate.
“The president will likely have a bipartisan pick. It has got to be bipartisan in order to get appointed to the court,” said Clyburn, who represents South Carolina in Congress.
Clyburn is openly pulling for South Carolina Judge Michelle Childs to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer on the Supreme Court. He said he has not spoken recently to the president or the vice president about Childs, a federal district court judge, but talked about her this week with South Carolina’s two U.S. senators, Republicans Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott.
Biden is also said to be considering U.S. Appeals Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson and California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger for the vacancy.
“I know how to count. I’m the whip,” Clyburn said. “It has to be bipartisan. So I’m reaching out to the two Republicans from South Carolina. I’ve asked them for their support, but I’m talking to other Republicans, as well.”
Clyburn did not say who the other Republicans are that he had spoken to besides Graham and Scott, who he dined with Wednesday in Washington. Graham shared a photo of the trio to his Twitter account.
Graham has committed publicly to supporting Childs, if Biden chooses the University of South Carolina Law School graduate.
In an interview on Friday afternoon, Clyburn said that he met with the Republican senators to seek their support for Childs’ possible nomination.
“The meeting was just about informing them of what I was doing, and knowing full well that you got to have more than 50 votes to get anybody on the court, and it’s got to be bipartisan for us to do that,” Clyburn said.
“We only have 49 votes up here. We have 50 Democrats, with one that will be out for several weeks because of a stroke, and we cannot get it done, unless we get 50 votes,” Clyburn said.
While there was a time when I knew the names of all 100 Senators, I must confess that I had never before heard of Ben Ray Luján. I nonetheless wish him a full and speedy recovery. A statement issued by his chief of staff says his doctors expect he will.
My guess is that Clyburn is simply grandstanding here in a bid to tip the scales to his favored candidate. Yes, he’s the House Whip and a seasoned vote-counter. But he’s not on the Senate side and, frankly, any of us can count to 50. If Luján were unable to vote in this Congress, obviously, the Democrats fall short of 50 votes because, well, they only have 50 if you count Luján.
A more detailed report in the Las Cruces Sun-News indicates the surgeons got to Luján quickly and that, barring complications, he should be back in DC in “four to six weeks.” A neurosurgeon quoted in the piece says that he could conceivably do Zoom calls much sooner than that–even next week. So there’s just no reason to think he won’t be able to vote for whomever it is that President Biden selects.
If that’s Childs, I’m fine with it. She’s relatively young at 55 and a state judge who didn’t attend an Ivy League school would be a step toward diversifying the Court. And getting the two South Carolina Republican Senators on board would be a bonus. I just don’t think it’ll be necessary.
An AP report (“History shows every moment counts for Dems’ hold on Senate“) gets more ghoulish, noting that there are a lot of old people in the Senate, with 19 who caucus with the Democrats over 70 and at least two in their 80s, and pointing out that more than 600 Senators have died in office or resigned early. While that is indeed a “precarious” situation, I don’t know that we need to spend a lot of time speculating over the possibilities.