Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) was instrumental in Joe Biden’s win in the South Carolina Democratic primary leading to his nomination as the party’s presidential candidate in 2020. Now he is giving Biden some tough love on his upcoming nomination for the Supreme Court. Clyburn advises Biden that if he expects his nomination to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer to succeed, he must plan on some help from Republicans.
Under the best circumstances, the Senate is already cut right down the middle, 50-50. Democrats are reliant on the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris to achieve a judicial confirmation solely along party lines. The Democrats have a different numbers handicap, at least temporarily now, with the disability of Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) as the result of a sudden stroke he recently suffered.
Without Luján, Democrats will need at least one Senate Republican to vote to confirm his appointment to the high court. Luján underwent surgery after his stroke to relieve swelling in his skull, and it is not known if he will be able to resume his Senate duties soon. His office has said that he is expected to make a full recovery and issued a timeline for his return of “four to six weeks.”
If he cannot resume his duties, his replacement would be named by Democratic New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. She could call a replacement if necessary in time to have the new senator available to vote on a Supreme Court nominee.
Clyburn, second in power among House Democrats only to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, said that Biden is likely to have to make a “bipartisan pick.” Breyer’s replacement, Clyburn, has openly supported Judge Michelle Childs from South Carolina. He said that he has not directly lobbied Biden or Harris yet about Childs as a possible pick, but he has talked with Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Tim Scott (R-SC) from his state about her.
Clyburn said that he is actively reaching out to other Republican senators in addition to the two South Carolinians. It appears possible that either or both of Graham and Scott might vote for Childs for the Supreme Court vacancy.
Childs is the candidate who is likely to receive support from several Republican senators. Whether or not Biden is willing to make a quality pick in addition to an affirmative action pick remains to be seen.