Sen. Joe Manchin III on Thursday said he was open to replacing retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer with a liberal jurist, provided the nominee was committed to the rule of law.
Mr. Manchin, West Virginia Democrat and a key swing vote in the 50-50 split Senate, told a radio station in his home state that political differences would not be a deciding factor when choosing whether to back President Biden‘s pick for the high court.
“It’s not too hard to get more liberal than me,” Mr. Manchin told West Virginia MetroNews. “So it would not bother me having a person who was sound in their thought process, who had been sound in their disbursement of justice and the rule of law, just because their personal beliefs [are different].”
He clarified that he would base his vote upon the character of the nominee and their qualifications to serve on the nation’s highest court.
“As far as just the philosophical beliefs, no, that will not prohibit me from supporting somebody,” Manchin said. “What you want is someone, forget the philosophical beliefs they may have … It will be the character of the person.”
Justice Breyer, 83, confirmed Thursday that his 28-year tenure on the Supreme Court would come to a close this year. Mr. Biden has pledged to pick an African American woman as his replacement.
The president’s nominee must win confirmation from the Senate. Thanks to rule changes that defanged the filibuster for nominees, the nominee only needs a simple majority in the 50-50 split chamber, where Vice President Kamala Harris casts the tie-breaking vote.
Moderates like Mr. Manchin will be key in securing confirmation of any nominee. Republicans are not expected to fight Mr. Biden’s pick wholeheartedly given that Justice Breyer’s departure will not change the court’s 6-3 conservative lean.
“If all Democrats hang together – which I expect they will – they have the power to replace Justice Breyer in 2022 without one Republican vote in support,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican. “Elections have consequences, and that is most evident when it comes to fulfilling vacancies on the Supreme Court.”