OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
Moderate Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin said he could see himself supporting a left-leaning Supreme Court candidate nominated by President Joe Biden to replace retiring liberal Justice Stephen Breyer, potentially giving such a selection a clearer path to the bench in the evenly-divided chamber.
“Whoever he puts up will have experience and we’ll be able to judge them off of that. But as far as just the philosophical beliefs, no, that will not prohibit me from supporting somebody,” Manchin said.
“I’m looking forward to whoever that person is going to be, make sure that the rule of law is the Bible that they go by,” he added, per Bloomberg News.
Asked about potentially voting for someone who is more liberal than he is, Manchin responded: “It’s not going to change the makeup of the court. The court right now is pretty much a 6-3 court.”
“So no matter what the philosophical beliefs of this person may be, that’s not going to change the decisions or the makeup of it,” he added.
For the most part, the Supreme Court leans towards constitutionalism and conservatism, but it’s not a lock; Chief Justice John Roberts, nominated to the bench by then-President George W. Bush, was billed as a “conservative” during his confirmation hearings but he has often been a swing vote, siding with the court’s liberals on key issues, most notably in upholding the individual mandate in ‘Obamacare’ in a June 2012 ruling when he declared it a “tax.”
Continuing, Manchin explained, “What you want is someone — forget the philosophical beliefs they may have — is basically how they have dispensed justice, their record, have they been outspoken, [have] they been fair…are they able to get along with the other eight justices.
“It’s not too hard to get more liberal than me,” Manchin quipped. “So it would not bother me having a person who was sound in their thought process and been sound in their disbursement of justice and the rule of law.”
MetroNews reported that Manchin supported two of President Donald Trump’s three Supreme Court nominees; he supported Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh but not Justice Amy Coney Barrett because he felt the vote came too close to the 2020 election.
Justice Stephen Breyer will formally announce his retirement from the Supreme Court. Manchin supported 2 of the 3 nominees from Donald Trump. Manchin talks about whether or not he will support President Biden’s nominee to @HoppyKercheval. WATCH: https://t.co/yCFQ3nm85Y pic.twitter.com/HHp8Mrom7Y
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) January 27, 2022
Reports noted Wednesday that Breyer, 83, will retire from the high court after being nominated by then-President Bill Clinton and confirmed in 1994.
“Before joining the Supreme Court, Breyer served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit and was chief counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee under Chairman Ted Kennedy, a post that gave him a front-row seat to the political dynamics of the judicial nominating process,” CBS News reported, adding:
Breyer has not shied away from weighing in on controversial issues involving the Supreme Court, namely efforts by some progressives tofrom nine to 13. His comments were frequently cited by opponents of so-called “court-packing,” as the issue gained traction among Democrats as a way to dilute the power of the conservative justices. During an April 2021 lecture to Harvard Law School, he to the high court could erode the public’s trust in the institution and urged those pushing such a change to “think long and hard before they embody those changes in the law.”
He also believes that the death penalty violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment, and he favors term limits for justices, though he believes tenure should be lengthy.