Politics Senate set for muted battle over Breyer successor
Supreme Court to hear challenge from Sen. Ted Cruz that may undermine campaign finance law
Sen. Cruz, an ex-Supreme Court litigator, is challenging federal campaign finance rules limiting how candidates may loan their campaigns money.A day before his successful reelection in 2018, the Texas Republican loaned his own campaign $260,000. When the deadline came to repay the money, his campaign didn't fully reimburse him, so Cruz could challenge a law that has bitterly divided Republicans and Democrats over how candidates fund their campaigns.
The retirement of liberal Justice Stephen Breyer sets up a battle in the Senate that is almost certain to result in the confirmation of President Biden's pick to succeed him.
At the same time, there's likely to be some drama along the way, and many eyes will be on the centrist Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.VA.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who have impeded Biden and frustrated fellow Senate Democrats by blocking key parts of the president's agenda.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) plans to move as quickly as possible to confirm Breyer's successor, according to a person familiar with his thinking, not leaving anything to chance in a 50-50 Senate.
Dems barrel toward showdown to change Senate rules — and failure
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is moving ahead on an evening vote, despite the immovable opposition of Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. © Francis Chung/E&E News Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is with other Senate Democrats on Capitol Hill Jan. 18, 2022. Wednesday’s vote is the culmination of several failed attempts to pass the elections reform legislation, which Republicans unanimously oppose. While progressives hoped the stalled elections bill would lead Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Sinema (D-Ariz.) to endorse weakening the Senate’s 60-vote threshold, the two senators remain unmoved.
"In the Senate, we want to be deliberate. We want to move quickly. We want to get this done as soon as possible," Schumer told reporters in New York.
Manchin and Sinema have backed judicial nominees from Biden and seem unlikely to stand in the way of a Biden pick for the court - an appointment that will not change the balance of a body that now has six conservative justices.
Democrats feel confident Manchin and Sinema will stick with the rest of their caucus and support Biden's nominee, as long as that person is considered well qualified.
The historic nature of Biden's expected pick will also be a factor.
Biden pledged to appoint the first Black woman to the Supreme Court and he is expected to make good on that promise.
D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who was confirmed last year to the nation's second-highest court last year, is considered the leading candidate to replace Breyer.
The Filibuster Is Still Doomed
The question is who will benefit most when it finally falls.In the end, they did neither.
Manchin and Sinema joined the rest of their Democratic colleagues in backing her confirmation to the D.C. Circuit in a 53-44 in June. Three Republicans also voted to confirm: Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.).
A person familiar with Schumer's thinking said he is looking at the monthlong timeline for confirming a Biden pick - the amount of time that Republicans used to confirm Justice Amy Coney Barrett just before the 2020 presidential election after liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death.
That shift did affect the court's balance and enraged Democrats after Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) in 2016 engineered a plan to block President Obama's pick to succeed conservative justice Antonin Scalia.
Democratic strategists say moving quickly will be a way for Schumer to unify his caucus after recent divisive fights over filibuster reform and Biden's Build Back Better Act.
Democrats say change to filibuster just a matter of time
Democratic lawmakers, aides and strategists believe it's just a matter of time before the Senate filibuster is substantially changed to limit the minority's ability to stop legislation, despite a defeat on the matter last week. Anger throughout the party at Sen. Kyrsten Sinema's (D-Ariz.) opposition to changing the filibuster, which helped derail a final vote on voting rights legislation, signals opposition to filibuster reform as an increasingly untenable position with the Democratic Party, they say. Sinema and fellow centrist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.
Matt House, a Democratic strategist and former Schumer aide, said a quick confirmation process "would be a good, strong show of force for Democrats at a time when they need it, in contrast to some of the other struggles."
Rodell Mollineau, a Democratic strategist and former Senate leadership aide, predicted that Manchin and Sinema will stick with their Democratic colleagues.
"I know there has been a lot of frustration with Sens. Manchin and Sinema but I think we need to stop looking at this through the construct of, 'Those two senators will be against everything and anything that Democrats want,' because it's simply not true," he said. "We certainly had a rough patch on a few issues but I can point to a lot more issues where both of them have been party loyalists on than I can on things they've been against."
Mollineau said Senate confirmation of Biden's nominee doesn't have to turn into World War III.
"It would be a shame if there were a bunch of fireworks on this one. It's not changing the outlook of the court," he said.
Mollineau also said he doesn't think the court fight will be much of an issue heading into the midterm elections - in contrast the high-profile fight over Brett Kavanaugh that former Sens. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) thought cost them their seats in the 2018 midterms.
Stephen Breyer to Retire From Supreme Court After 27 Years
President Joe Biden just received an opportunity to nominate his first justice to the Supreme Court, and a major test of his ability to navigate the U.S. Senate: Justice Stephen Breyer, 82, is set to retire at the end of this term. NBC News first reported Breyer’s impending retirement on Wednesday. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the news, which set off a flurry of activity in the West Wing, but White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted shortly after that “it has always been the decision of any Supreme Court Justice if and when they decide to retire, and how they want to announce it, and that remains the case today.
Biden's Supreme Court shortlist also includes 7th Circuit judge Candace Jackson-Akiwumi, 2nd Circuit Judge Eunice Lee, California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger, Federal Circuit Judge Tiffany Cunningham, South Carolina District Judge J. Michelle Childs and Minnesota District Judge Wilhelmina Wright.
Judges Brown Jackson, Jackson-Akiwumi, Eunice Lee and Cunningham all have the advantage of having been confirmed to their current positions in this Congress, and all 50 members of the Democratic caucus are already on the record supporting them as qualified nominees.
Jackson-Akiwumi was confirmed to the 7th Circuit by a 53-47 vote in June and also had the support of Collins, Murkowski and Graham.
Lee was confirmed more narrowly in August to the 2nd Circuit by a vote of 50-47. Collins and Murkowski voted against her nomination while Graham missed the vote.
The Senate voted 63-33 in July to confirm Cunningham to the Federal circuit.
Childs, who was confirmed to the South Carolina district court in 2010, was recently nominated by Biden to serve on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on her nomination next week.
She has the support of House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), who helped Biden win the 2020 South Carolina Democratic primary, a critical factor in him later winning the nomination.
Mother Arrested for Voter Fraud After Casting 2020 Ballot for Son Against His Will
The woman allegedly requested a ballot in her son's name and mailed it in, even though her son had completed a mail-in ballot in another state.Sheryle Jack, 56, from Melbourne, Florida was being investigated on suspicion of a potential voting violation and was officially arrested earlier this week. She is accused of allegedly requesting a Florida ballot on behalf of her son John Jack, and mailing it in. However, authorities were suspicious of the ballot, given how her son had legally sent in his own mail-in ballot in Washington.
Wright was confirmed to the Minnesota district court in January of 2016 and has had past support from Senate Rules Committee Chairwoman Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), a Schumer ally.
Mike Plante, a West Virginia-based Democratic strategist, said Manchin's philosophy has been to show deference to a president's Supreme Court pick if the nominee is qualified, following the example set by long-time West Virginia Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D).
"I think Joe will give the president his choice as long as he thinks it's a qualified nominee," he said.
"He had said to me years ago that he took Sen. Byrd's approach on these confirmations that the president, regardless of their party, deserves to pick their team. As long as there was nothing extraordinary in [the nominee's] background that he thought was disqualifying, then the president ought to get his or her choice on their nominees to federal offices and judicial appointees," he added.
Manchin voted for two of former President Trump's Supreme Court nominees: Justice Neil Gorsuch in April of 2017 and Kavanaugh in October of 2018.
Many Senate Republicans will put up a staunch resistance and plan to frame Biden's pick as a far-left judge who would support what they say is his "radical" agenda.
While Republicans know they have little chance of stopping the nominee - unless some kind of unexpected scandal emerges - they can use the fight to raise money and rev up their base ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.
Brian Darling, a Republican strategist and former Senate aide, said, "it depends on the nominee but I think you will see, no matter who gets nominated, Republicans dig in and fight," he said.
"Supreme Court picks are always a big fight, they're very important to the conservative movement and I have to imagine this is going to be a battle," he added.
Joe Manchin says he would be open to voting for a Biden SCOTUS pick who is more liberal than he is .
"It's not too hard to get more liberal than me," Manchin said, adding that he would vote for a SCOTUS pick with differing "philosophical beliefs."Manchin made these comments during a Thursday interview with West Virginia MetroNews' "Talkline" host Hoppy Kercheval.