Sen. Susan Collins said President Biden’s “clumsy” handling of filling a Supreme Court vacancy with his pledge to nominate a black woman has politicized the high court.
Collins (R-Maine) said she believes the Supreme Court — which will soon be missing retiring Justice Stephen Breyer — would benefit from some diversity.
“But the way that the president has handled this nomination has been clumsy at best,” she told host George Stephanopoulos on ABC News’ “This Week.” “It adds to the further perception that the court is a political institution like Congress when it is not supposed to be.”
“So I certainly am open to whomever he decides to nominate,” Collins continued. “My job as a senator is to evaluate the qualifications of that person under the advice and consent role.”
Breyer announced his retirement from the high court last week, and Biden reiterated the pledge he made during his 2020 presidential campaign that he would nominate a black woman.
Stephanopoulos asked Collins whether it was political when former President Ronald Reagan said he would nominate a woman and selected Sandra Day O’Connor or when then-President Donald Trump did the same with Amy Coney Barrett to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
”Actually, this isn’t exactly the same. I’ve looked at what was done in both cases. And what President Biden did was, as a candidate, make this pledge. And that helped politicize the entire nomination process,” Collins said.
”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,” the Maine senator said.
Another Republican senator, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, said he, too, would support more diversity on the bench and disputed accusations that pledging to nominate a black woman constituted “affirmative action.”
“Put me in the camp of making sure the court and other institutions look like America. You know, we make a real effort as Republicans to recruit women and people of color to make the party look more like America,” Graham said on CBS News’ “Face the Nation.”
”Affirmative action is picking somebody not as well qualified for past wrongs,” he said.
Last week, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) said a black woman being picked to fill Breyer’s seat would be a “beneficiary” of affirmative action and that no GOP senators would vote for her confirmation.
“The irony is that the Supreme Court is at the very time hearing cases about this sort of affirmative racial discrimination while adding someone who is the beneficiary of this sort of quota,” Wicker said.
The Supreme Court announced last Monday that it will take up a case challenging Harvard University and the University of North Carolina’s consideration of race in their admissions processes, which could bring about the end of affirmative action in the college application process.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the panel that will hold confirmation hearings for Biden’s nominee, also dismissed accusations of affirmative action in the selection.
“Take a look back at history,” Durbin said, recalling Reagan nominating O’Connor and Trump appointing Coney Barrett.
“So this is not the first time the president has signaled what they’re looking for in a nominee,” Durbin said on “This Week.”
According to an ABC News/Ipsos poll released Sunday, 76 percent of Americans believe Biden should consider “all possible nominees,” while 23 percent think the president should follow through with his campaign commitment.