A resounding majority of Americans want President Joe Biden to consider “all possible nominees” to fill retiring Justice Stephen Breyer’s seat on the Supreme Court, according to a new ABC News/Ipsos poll. A little more than three-quarters of Americans think Biden should consider everyone and only 23 percent say he should automatically follow through on his pledge to nominate the first Black woman to the Supreme Court. Although Democrats are more supportive of Biden following through on his pledge, 54 percent still say Biden should consider all possible nominees.
Biden has insisted he can follow through on his pledge. “The person I will nominate will be someone with extraordinary qualifications, character, experience and integrity. And that person will be the first Black woman ever nominated to the United States Supreme Court,” Biden said at a recent ceremony honoring Breyer. “It’s long overdue in my view. I made that commitment during the campaign for president, and I will keep that commitment.”
Several Senate Republicans and conservative commentators have blasted Biden’s commitment to nominate a Black woman to the bench. Sen. Roger Wicker from Mississippi, for example, said Friday that the first Black woman nominated to the Supreme Court would be a “beneficiary” of affirmative action. “The irony is that the Supreme Court is at the very same time hearing cases about this sort of affirmative racial discrimination while adding someone who is the beneficiary of this sort of quota,” he said in an interview.
The Supreme Court vacancy was a hot topic of conversation on the Sunday morning shows . Sen. Dick Durbin, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, defended Biden’s pledge to nominate a Black woman. In an interview on ABC’s This Week, Durbin said people should “look back at history” and realize that previous Republican presidents had vowed to select women to fill vacancies on the Supreme Court. “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. So this is not the first time the president has signaled what they’re looking for in a nominee,” Durbin said.
Sen. Susan Collins said that while she “would welcome the appointment of a Black female” to the Supreme Court she criticized the way Biden has gone about the process. “I believe that diversity benefits the Supreme Court. But the way that the president has handled this nomination has been clumsy at best,” the Maine Republican said. Collins said that what made Biden’s pledge different from others made by previous Republican presidents is that he made it while a candidate for office. “That helped politicize the entire nomination process,” Collins said. Collins said that Biden’s pledge “adds to the further perception that the court is a political institution like Congress when it is not supposed to be.”
The ABC/Ipsos poll though makes clear that lots of Americans don’t see the justices as apolitical in the least. Forty-three percent of voters say justices rule “on the basis of their partisan political views.” Only 38 percent of respondents said justices rule “on the basis of the law.”