By Hunter Woodall
WASHINGTON – Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and her fellow Senate Democrats have an opportunity for the first time in years to get a nominee from the left confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court, after Republicans pushed through three justices during Donald Trump's White House tenure.
In an interview, Klobuchar said she isn't ruling out that Biden's future nominee could get some Republican support. She pointed to GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham backing two of then-President Barack Obama's Supreme Court picks as an example.
"I don't think we should immediately jump to the conclusion that it's going to be a partisan vote," Klobuchar said. "I am not naïve to think that we would ever get the vast majority of Republicans."
As a member of the Senate's Judiciary committee, Klobuchar will play a leading part in Democrats' quest to confirm a new Supreme Court justice to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer at a time when the party narrowly holds control of the chamber.
"I've actually gotten to know (Breyer), have a lot of respect for him," Klobuchar said. "But I was the one that said if he's going to make the decision, he should do it sooner rather than later and not right up against an election, because it becomes so political and more of a mess."
News of Breyer's upcoming retirement comes more than nine months before the midterm elections when Senate Democrats are at risk of losing control of the chamber to Republicans.
"He didn't do it because of me, he did it because of his own decision," Klobuchar added about Breyer. "But I think this is an exciting moment for us to remind people what the judiciary is about and what judges are about."
Replacing Breyer, who was nominated by Democratic President Bill Clinton, won't cut into conservatives' existing control on the court that was cemented during the Trump era.
Klobuchar voted against confirming each of Trump's Supreme Court nominees. Fellow Minnesota Democratic Sen. Tina Smith, whose tenure in the Senate started in 2018, opposed both Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett's nominations. Last year, Smith signed on in support of a controversial piece of legislation adding four justices to the court, saying in a statement that "with Donald Trump's help, they stole two seats."
"I expect the president to nominate a jurist who is well qualified, and that jurist should earn the support of both Democrats and Republicans," Smith said in an interview Friday. "And if they don't, I think that says more about the Republican Party than it does about the president's nominee."
While Republicans lack the ability to block a nominee, how much approval Biden's eventual pick could get from the right may be limited.
"The American people elected a Senate that is evenly split at 50-50. To the degree that President Biden received a mandate, it was to govern from the middle, steward our institutions, and unite America," Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement. "The President must not outsource this important decision to the radical left."
Calling it "long overdue," Biden pledged during a speech Thursday that he will make history by choosing a Black woman to replace Breyer.
"In the entire history of the United States Supreme Court, not a single African American woman has ever served so it is past time," Smith said. "And I look forward to reviewing the president's candidate when she's named."
Klobuchar said that Biden "had every right to make that pledge given the makeup of our judiciary." She added that "there are many, many qualified African American women who could serve ably on the Supreme Court."