As Democrats eye Breyer replacement, some Republicans prepare to fight

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Democrats reacted to the news Wednesday that Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, 83, will retire with praise for his decision and discussion of a potential replacement, while some Republicans suggested that they will fight the next nominee.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said the Democratic-controlled Senate should be able to get any pick through without GOP support.

“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. Elections have consequences, and that is most evident when it comes to fulfilling vacancies on the Supreme Court,” Graham said.

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said President Joe Biden should nominate "someone who loves America and believes in the Constitution," not a "woke activist."

"If he chooses to nominate a left wing activist who will bless his campaign against parents, his abuse of the FBI, his refusal to enforce our immigration laws, and his lawless vaccine mandates, expect a major battle in the Senate," tweeted Hawley, who helped lead an effort to object to the certification of Biden's Electoral College victory on Jan. 6, 2021.

Despite the 6-3 division among conservative and liberal justices on the Supreme Court, Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., urged senators of her party to try to block Biden's nominee.

"Joe Biden will try to appoint a radical leftist. We need the Senate to stand strong for the Constitution!" she tweeted.

Democrats were unified in their praise of Breyer's decision and optimistic about confirming a justice who could sit on the court for decades to come.

“Justice Breyer has led an exemplary and distinguished career in public service. I’m grateful to him for all that he has done to create a more fair and just country for all Americans," Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said in a statement shortly after NBC News first reported Breyer's impending retirement.

Murray quickly turned to the topic of who should replace Breyer, who has been on the court for more than 27 years.

“I want to voice my support for President Biden in his pledge to nominate the first Black woman to the Supreme Court. The Court should reflect the diversity of our country, and it is unacceptable that we have never in our nation’s history had a Black woman sit on the Supreme Court of the United States — I want to change that," she said.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., called Breyer "a trusted voice on the bench with a first-rate legal mind."

Durbin, who chairs the Judiciary Committee and would be responsible for steering Biden's pick through the nomination process, said Biden has the opportunity to pick "someone who will bring diversity, experience, and an evenhanded approach to the administration of justice."

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., also weighed in, saying: “I take my Constitutional responsibility to advise and consent on a nominee to the Supreme Court very seriously. I look forward to meeting with and evaluating the qualifications of President Biden’s nominee to fill this Supreme Court vacancy.”

Manchin, who has faced criticism among Democrats for stymieing some of Biden's agenda, has voted for all of his court picks so far.

Some progressive Democrats pressed Biden to deliver on his campaign pledge to nominate a Black woman.

"@POTUS it's time for a Black woman on the Supreme Court," tweeted Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass.

Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., tweeted: "@POTUS you promised us a Black woman on the Supreme Court. Let’s see it happen."

While Breyer has yet to make a formal announcement, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday that Biden "has stated, and reiterated, his commitment to nominating a Black woman to the Supreme Court, and certainly stands by that."

Biden and Breyer are scheduled to appear together at the White House Thursday as the Supreme Court justice is set to announce his retirement, a source familiar with the matter confirmed to NBC News.

A potential successor to Breyer is one of his former law clerks, federal appeals Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, whom the Senate confirmed to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for Washington, D.C., last year in a 53-44 vote. Graham and Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine voted to confirm her.

Graham, who also voted to confirm the liberal Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan in a less divided Senate, said: “I appreciate Justice Breyer’s service to our nation. He has always been a scholar and a gentleman whose record on the Supreme Court is solidly in the liberal camp."

Collins praised Breyer's "distinguished career" in a statement.

"I am grateful for his integrity, devotion to the Judiciary, and exceptional commitment to public service,” she said.

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