In a U.S. Senate that was upended by toxic Supreme Court battles during the Trump era, the confirmation of President Joe Biden’s pick has the potential for something else: a return to calmer political normalcy.
Because the ideological balance of the court is not at stake — Biden is expected to nominate a liberal judge to replace liberal Justice Stephen Breyer, who is retiring — the charged partisan atmosphere that greeted other recent vacancies is notably absent.
Most Republicans still are expected to oppose Biden’s nominee, no matter who it is. But having changed the rules to prevent a filibuster, they are essentially powerless to stop the Democratic majority from confirming Biden’s choice.
They’re expected to refrain from dramatic action, content with the 6-3 conservative majority they solidified under former President Donald Trump.
“I think it’s going to be a more traditional confirmation fight,” said Mike Davis, a former chief counsel to Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee and now president of the Article Three Project that advocates for conservative judges. Texas Sen. John Cornyn, a member of the committee, said the nominee will be treated not only “fairly” but with “dignity and respect.”
For now, some Republicans and conservative groups are promising a vigorous political debate but with restraint, mindful that Democrats suffered politically after Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s contentious confirmation fight in 2018. Senate Democrats went on to lose seats in the midterm elections after focusing on allegations that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted an acquaintance when he was a teenager — a charge he vigorously denied —and Republicans are not interested in staging a similar showdown.
“Republicans need to fight hard, but fairly,” Davis said.