“We’ll be ready from a staff viewpoint and logistic viewpoint, but the decision really starts with the President and as it should,” Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, told ABC News.
“When he chooses a nominee and sends it to the Senate, then we’re off and running. And that nominee and the background of the nominee, in terms of whether they’ve been before the committee, how recently they were there, and how much information we can bring together quickly, we’ll decide the timeline,” the chairman added.
The comments from Durbin come days after Breyer, the senior liberal on the high court, announced he would be retiring at the end of the court’s term. As the White House begins its search for his potential replacement, congressional Democrats have promised to give the eventual nominee a speedy confirmation process.
Durbin’s committee plays a key role in the process, with the nominee needing to get the panel’s OK before they receive a vote from the full Senate.
Last week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he is looking at a quick time frame to confirm Biden’s nominee — and that he will follow a similar timeline that Republicans employed to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the high court in 2020, according to a source familiar with his thinking.
“President Biden’s nominee will receive a prompt hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, and will be considered and confirmed by the full United States Senate with all deliberate speed,” Schumer said in a statement last week.
Historic pledge draws criticism
Durbin on Sunday dismissed criticism from Republican lawmakers who have taken aim at Biden for his pledge to nominate the first Black woman to the court, something that at least one conservative senator said would make the nominee a “beneficiary” of affirmative action.
“I remind them to take a look back at history and 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,” he said.
“And it was Donald Trump who announced that he was going to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg with a woman nominee as well. So this is not the first time that a president has signaled what they’re looking for in a nominee,” Durbin said.
Meanwhile, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, a Republican who sits on the Judiciary Committee, on Sunday defended previous Republican presidents for making gender criteria a prerequisite for their Supreme Court nominations, but distinguished Biden, who made his pledge while on the campaign trail, from Reagan, who she says only said he “would like” to appoint a woman to the court.
“I’ve looked at what was done in both cases, and what President Biden did was to, as a candidate, make this pledge, and that helps politicize the entire nomination process,” she told ABC News. “But 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.”
Collins, a moderate Republican, also defended her decision to vote against Amy Coney Barrett in her confirmation hearing in 2020. She said the decision was based on the precedent established by the Senate in 2016 to not vote on Supreme Court vacancies when there was a quickly approaching presidential election.
“I just feel like the reason I voted against Amy Coney Barrett was that her nomination and her vacancy occurred too close to the election, the presidential election, and Republicans … in the Obama administration, had established a precedent that we are not going to confirm someone. It was Merrick Garland in that case, in an election year,” Collins said.