Report: Biden has interviewed at least two SCOTUS shortlisters, pick may come Thursday

Mary Ann Chastain

Innnnnteresting gossip on the ol’ Twitter machine today:


Just idle chitchat, misheard or overstated by Mair? Probably not. WaPo dropped this scoop a few hours later:

President Biden is in the final stages of making his first nomination to the Supreme Court — having completed interviews with at least two leading contenders — and West Wing officials have begun advising outside allies on how to defend the nominee against potential attacks, according to people briefed on the process.

One of the interviews was with Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who has sat on the federal bench for nine years and has a background as a public defender, according to one of the people. Another was with Judge J. Michelle Childs, a federal judge in South Carolina who is a favorite of House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), an influential Biden ally…

But three of the people briefed on the selection process said they expected Biden would select Jackson, who emerged as a front-runner soon after Justice Stephen G. Breyer announced his retirement in late January. Others painted a picture of a decision that was more fluid.

I’m tempted to hot-take my way to a theory that the timing of the announcement is being driven by developments in Ukraine, but how would that work? The Ukraine crisis will last weeks or months. Biden will get a weekend of heavy coverage of his SCOTUS pick, tops. There’s no “distracting” from a major war in Europe.


WaPo claims that Biden has interviewed *at least* Jackson and Childs. Presumably he’s also interviewed Leondra Kruger, one of the other shortlisters and someone who’s reputed to be a moderate and a consensus-builder on the California Supreme Court. Kruger’s also the youngest of the three main contenders, which must be appealing to Biden and his team. It could be that he’s reserving Kruger for the next Court vacancy, except that there may not be another vacancy for awhile. Once Breyer is gone, the oldest justice will be Clarence Thomas. He’ll turn 74 this summer, a spring chicken by SCOTUS standards. And if he intends to retire soon, it’s certainly not going to be before 2025.

As much as Team Biden may instinctively prefer the youngest nominee, Jackson has always seemed to have the inside track. Nominating her to the D.C. Circuit last year was widely seen as Biden’s way of positioning her for the next Supreme Court vacancy. She was confirmed with three Republican votes too, which means she’s already been vetted and passed scrutiny in the Senate in the very recent past. She’s a few years younger than Childs as well, portending a longer tenure on the Court. Childs remains in contention because she’s a favorite of James Clyburn but traditionally when there’s an early frontrunner in the Supreme Court sweepstakes — Jackson, in this case — the president ends up choosing that person. I think it’s a matter of risk-aversion: If you were more or less set on someone in the first place, you don’t want to distrust your own instincts and upend the White House’s internal expectations by springing a surprise on a matter as fraught and consequential as a SCOTUS nominee.


Elsewhere in Washington today, Democrats are getting ready for the end of Roe v. Wade this summer. Boy, are they ever:

With eight months to go until the 2022 midterm elections, Chuck Schumer is planning to hold the first vote in Senate history on a bill that would create a virtually unlimited nationwide right to abortion through all nine months of pregnancy

Creating a right to abortion “all the way through pregnancy” in all 50 states is exactly what the WHPA does. The bill creates an absolute right to abortion prior to fetal viability — that is, prior to the point at which a baby can likely survive outside the womb — and prevents state laws from protecting a baby’s life after viability whenever a single “health-care provider” determines that the continuation of the pregnancy “would pose a risk” to the mother’s life or “health.”…

The bill also enshrines a right for non-doctors to perform abortions, even after viability. The determination of whether a post-viability pregnancy poses a risk to a “pregnant patient’s life or health” may be made by a lone “health care provider” — a term that includes but is not limited to a “certified nurse-midwife, nurse practitioner, and physician assistant.”

There’s zero chance that bill will pass, notes John McCormack, in which case one wonders why Schumer would want to force his caucus to take a no-win gut-check vote on it. Vote yes and you’re a far-left pro-choice radical to swing voters; vote no and you’ve angered the party’s pro-choice base. Not only that, but by holding this vote Schumer’s tacitly signaling that using federal power to legalize abortion nationally is a proper function of Congress. That precedent will be used against him if/when Roe falls and the next Republican Congress and Republican president move to ban abortion nationwide, over the objection of blue states.


But he’s worried about a primary from the left in New York, so he’s willing to expose vulnerable members of his caucus to a tough vote in the name of protecting his own ass.

Here’s Mitch McConnell being asked today whether he thinks it’s appropriate for Biden to limit his SCOTUS search to black women. Exit quotation from Biden advisor Cedric Richmond, speaking on a conference call with activists a few nights ago: “We know what some of the attacks are going to be: not qualified, affirmative action pick. Well, it wasn’t ‘affirmative action pick’ when we just picked friends, White friends of the president, for all these decades. You know, it was just patronage or whatever they wanted to call it.”

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