Manchin: I won't judge Biden SCOTUS nominee on ideology; Update: Breyer makes it official

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, Pool

“Democrats can exhale,” Politico quips, but was anyone really holding their breath? Joe Manchin didn’t commit to endorsing Joe Biden’s nominee to replace Stephen Breyer on the Supreme Court, but said he had no interest in ideological tests either. Manchin told West Virginia radio host Hoppy Kercheval that he didn’t worry that Biden would appoint someone more liberal than him, which wouldn’t be “too hard,” Manchin quipped.

As long as the nominee is well qualified, fair, and focused on the rule of law, Manchin said, he’d be fine with confirming her:

Well, Manchin is old-school, and there’s nothing more old-school than, um … giving presidents the benefit of the doubt on presidential appointments. (Yes, unfortunately, this is old-school for the Senate since about 2002 or so. See Estrada, Miguel for more data.) Nor is this a case of convenient virtue, either. As Kercheval points out, Manchin took exactly the same approach to the confirmations of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, while only voting against Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation because of the rushed timetable used by Mitch McConnell.

Susan Collins has also been consistent on that point:

Collins also voted against Barrett’s confirmation. Does this mean she’ll vote against Biden’s nominee, or is she just pushing Chuck Schumer to allow the process to unfold at a more normal pace? Schumer might not have much choice about that if Manchin sticks to his guns, and perhaps Collins is offering a carrot here as well — go properly and you can expect my vote. Since there’s no need to rush and no real reason to think the GOP will try futile delaying and obstruction tactics, that should be an easy call for Schumer to make.

So again, it’s not clear that anyone had bated breath over this in the first place, but …

Democrats can exhale: It’s always good to get these things stated publicly but — as we noted yesterday — this shouldn’t really be a big surprise. Manchin and fellow centrist Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have supported Biden’s judicial picks this year … unlike other parts of his agenda.

At worst, Schumer’s looking at 50 solid votes as long as Biden doesn’t pick a nutcase with an embarrassing track record for Breyer’s replacement. Given the solid candidates already available even with Biden’s ethnic/sex restriction, few expect this nomination to go awry. Still, Barack Obama’s trenchant warning about Biden’s potential to “f*** things up” should be kept in mind.

Update: Breyer has made his retirement official, and at the end of the term rather than before:

That still allows the Senate to confirm a new justice before his retirement officially begins, but it also makes clear that there’s no rush either. Collins’ cooperation should be relatively easy to secure.