President Joe Biden hasn’t announced his nominee to replace Justice Stephen Breyer on the Supreme Court, but this week Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana suggested that whichever Black woman Biden chooses won’t “know a law book from a J. Crew catalog.”
Republicans are reportedly divided on how to approach Biden’s nominee, given conservatives already hold a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court and whoever replaces the liberal Breyer won’t change that balance, but Kennedy’s comments to Politico this week indicated that the right wing of the caucus is at least prepared to do some racist trolling.
“No. 1, I want a nominee who knows a law book from a J. Crew catalog,” Kennedy told Politico. “No. 2, I want a nominee who’s not going to try to rewrite the Constitution every other Thursday to try to advance a ‘woke agenda.’”
Biden reiterated last week that he would nominate the first Black woman to the Supreme Court to replace Breyer. The potential candidates include U.S. Circuit Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who was confirmed with bipartisan support last March; California state Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger, who has been on that bench for six years and previously served as a top assistant to the U.S. Solicitor General; and U.S. District Court Judge J. Michelle Childs, who has sat on the federal bench for more than a decade.
None of these people, in other words, are brand-new to the concept of constitutional law.
Kennedy also criticized Republican leaders such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Whip John Thune, who’ve downplayed expectations for Republican opposition given that Democrats control the White House and Senate, albeit by the narrowest of margins. (Sen. Ben Ray Luján’s recent stroke, which will keep him out of work for at least a month, means that Democrats likely won’t even have a working majority for the time being.)
“I think some members of leadership think they can control what people want to talk about,” Kennedy told Politico. “I don’t agree with that proposition. I’m going to talk about what I want to talk about, and if they don’t like that, they can call somebody who cares.”
Other right-wing senators have criticized Biden’s pledge to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court, which he first made during the 2020 Democratic primary. Soon after Breyer’s announcement, Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker claimed that Biden’s nominee would be “the beneficiary” of affirmative action, or what Wicker described as “affirmative racial discrimination.”
And Sen. Ted Cruz said on his podcast earlier this week that Biden’s pledge was “insulting to Black women” and “offensive” to everyone else. “If you’re a white guy, tough luck,” Cruz said, ignoring the fact that more than 93 percent of Supreme Court Justices in American history have been white men. “If you’re a white woman, tough luck. You don’t qualify.”
Cruz was sharply criticized by Democrats, including New Jersey Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, the first Black woman to represent her state in Congress. “I'd love to know how many Black women [Cruz] consulted before he decided he was qualified to speak on our behalf,” Coleman tweeted.
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