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U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, on Wednesday said he is urging a "fair and thoughtful" confirmation process to vet President Joe Biden's eventual nominee to succeed retiring U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.
Grassley met Tuesday with Biden and U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, to discuss the forthcoming Supreme Court vacancy as the White House ramps up outreach to Republicans in hopes of avoiding a heated confirmation battle.
Grassley serves as the ranking Republican member and former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
"From my point of view, it was a very successful meeting," Grassley said Wednesday during a weekly conference call with Iowa reporters.
His remarks echoed those of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who this week pledged to treat Biden’s nominee with respect during a "thoughtful" process.
With the outcome of the confirmation process unlikely to change the 6-3 conservative majority and ideological composition of the court, and Republicans believing there are better issues on which to focus heading into the November midterm elections, both Grassley and McConnell indicated Republicans will keep the upcoming confirmation battle civil and focused on the qualifications of the nominee, who is expected to be the first Black woman selected for the Supreme Court.
Durbin this week expressed confidence that Republicans will not seek to boycott a hearing and slow the confirmation process in the evenly divided U.S. Senate, NBC News reported.
Grassley refused to hold a hearing on Merrick Garland’s 2016 nomination to the Supreme Court. Former President Barack Obama nominated Garland, now serving as U.S. Attorney General, after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. But Republicans who controlled the Senate refused to consider the nomination during an election year.
Asked if he is open to supporting Biden’s eventual nominee and his pledge to nominate the first-ever Black woman to the court, Grassley said: "We need the nominee first."
"I'm going to be focused on not man or woman, (or) race," Grassley said. "I'm going to be focused on the qualification, in particular ... that we want somebody that's going to interpret the law and not make law."
Grassley added it's Congress' "responsibility to make law, and we shouldn't be having judges or justices usurp the constitutional power of Congress."
Biden on Tuesday said he hopes to announce a nominee by the end of the month, and that once announced he is hoping for a 40-day confirmation process, a similar timeline to other nominees.
"The Constitution says 'advise and consent' -- 'advice and consent.' And I’m serious when I say it: that I want the advice of the Senate as well as the consent, if we can arrive on who the nominee should be,” Biden told reporters following Tuesday's meeting, according to pool reports and remarks provided by the White House.
Some Republicans and conservative media outlets have decried Biden's promise to nominate a Black woman as the next justice. Both President Donald Trump and President Ronald Reagan pledged to nominate women to the nation's highest court during their terms.
Fellow Republican Senate Judiciary Committee member Lindsey Graham of South Carolina in an interview on CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday defended Biden’s pledge, saying it was no different than Reagan’s promise to nominate the nation’s first female justice, Sandra Day O’Connor, in 1981.
"Put me in the camp of making sure the court and other institutions look like America," Graham said. "You know, we make a real effort as Republicans to recruit women and people of color to make the party look more like America."
Among top contenders to succeed Breyer is South Carolina U.S. District Court Judge J. Michelle Childs, whom Graham praised as "highly qualified" and "fair-minded, highly gifted jurist."
"If she's nominated, she will not be treated like Judge Kavanaugh, I promise you, by Republicans," Graham said, referring to the heated fight over Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's 2018 confirmation after he faced allegations of previous sexual misconduct.
Biden on Tuesday said he is looking for "a candidate with character; with the qualities of a judge, in terms of being courteous to the folks before them and treating people with respect; as well as a judicial philosophy that is more of one that suggests that there are unenumerated rights in the Constitution, and all the amendments mean something, including the Ninth Amendment."