U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is a grandmaster at political chess with Supreme Court nominations, but the latest announced retirement may leave the Kentucky senator with few options on the board.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, one of three remaining liberal justices, will be leaving the bench after 27 years on the Court creating a vacancy on the Court that President Joe Biden has promised to fill with a Black woman.
On Thursday, McConnell applauded the service of Breyer while urging Biden not to “outsource” the decision on filling to the seat to the “radical left.”
“Justice Breyer commands respect and affection across the legal world, including from those who disagree with his judicial philosophy and conclusions in cases,” McConnell said in a statement. “This respect is rooted in Justice Breyer’s intelligence, rigor, and good-faith scholarly engagement. By all accounts, both personally and professionally, he has rendered exemplary service on our nation’s highest Court.”
“Justice Breyer’s commitment to the importance of a nonpartisan, non-politicized judiciary has been especially admirable,” he continued. “Even in the face of undue criticism from the modern political left, Justice Breyer has remained a principled voice against destructive proposals such as partisan court-packing that would shatter public trust in the rule of law.”
The U.S. Senate, where Biden’s nomination will be vetted and voted upon, is split 50 – 50 with Vice President Kamala Harris acting as the tie-breaking vote. A simple majority of 51 votes is needed to pass the nomination. Several Republicans have crossed party lines in other judicial appointments and could cross party lines again on this vote.
McConnell is warning Biden that the nominee he selects should reflect the split in the upper chamber.
“(T)he American people elected a Senate that is evenly split at 50-50,” McConnell said. “To the degree that President Biden received a mandate, it was to govern from the middle, steward our institutions, and unite America.”
“The President must not outsource this important decision to the radical left,” he continued. “The American people deserve a nominee with demonstrated reverence for the written text of our laws and our Constitution.”