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Critics slam Cruz for saying Biden’s vow to nominate first Black woman to Supreme Court is ‘offensive’

After President Biden said he would pick a Black woman for the Supreme Court, Republican senators split over whether the pick amounted to discrimination. (Video: JM Rieger/The Washington Post)

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) says President Biden’s vow to nominate and confirm the first Black woman to the U.S. Supreme Court is “offensive” and “an insult to Black women,” becoming the latest Republican to question what is expected to be a history-making nomination to the high court.

On his podcast, “Verdict with Ted Cruz,” the Texas senator argued on Monday that Biden’s pledge to nominate a Black woman sent a message to other Americans that they are automatically “ineligible” because of race and gender.

“The fact that he’s willing to make a promise at the outset, that it must be a Black woman, I got to say that’s offensive. You know, Black women are what, 6 percent of the U.S. population? He’s saying to 94 percent of Americans, ‘I don’t give a damn about you, you are ineligible,’” Cruz said. Black women represent 7 percent of the population as of 2019, according to the Census Bureau.

Cruz also claimed, without evidence, that Biden’s upcoming Supreme Court pick was “actually an insult to Black women,” and suggested the president would not nominate the most qualified candidate.

“If he came and said, 'I’m gonna put the best jurist on the court and he looked at a number of people and he ended up nominating a Black woman, he could credibly say, ‘Okay, I’m nominating the person who’s most qualified,’ ” the senator said. “He’s not even pretending to say that, he’s saying, ‘If you’re a White guy, tough luck. If you’re a White woman, tough luck. You don’t qualify.’”

The comments, which came a day before the start of Black History Month, were slammed by critics and liberals as what one called “unfettered systematic racism.”

“This nation has been built on the strength and fortitude of Black women. We are everything from caregivers to CEOs and soon, a Supreme Court Justice,” tweeted Rep. Marilyn Strickland (D-Wash.). “The only thing insulting to this Black woman is Ted Cruz thinking he speaks for us.”

A Cruz spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Tuesday. White House spokesman Andrew Bates, who has said that Biden’s vow “is in line with the best traditions of both parties and our nation,” pointed The Washington Post to his Monday tweet referencing how Cruz did not protest President Donald Trump “promising to pick a woman” for a Supreme Court opening in 2020.

The GOP senator’s remarks come ahead of Biden’s meeting Tuesday with Senate Judiciary Committee leaders as he proceeds with his search to replace Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who last week announced he would retire at the end of this court term. Biden has said the nomination of a Black woman to the high court was “long overdue.” The president said he hopes to announce his pick by the end of this month.

Biden to meet with Sens. Durbin, Grassley as search proceeds for next Supreme Court nominee

The White House has already confirmed that U.S. District Judge J. Michelle Childs, 55, of South Carolina, is under consideration. Others believed to be potential candidates include Ketanji Brown Jackson, 51, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and Leondra Kruger, 45, a California Supreme Court justice.

Democrats and historians have pointed to the way Republican presidents such as Ronald Reagan and Trump announced their plans to nominate a woman to an open seat on the Supreme Court. Reagan selected Sandra Day O’Connor for a vacancy in 1981, while Trump picked Justice Amy Coney Barrett to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 2020.

Biden promised a Black female justice. Reagan made a similar pledge.

Despite the history, Biden’s upcoming nomination has caused some Republicans to question the president’s selection process, which Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) described as “clumsy at best.” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) recently told Fox News host Sean Hannity that the pledge to name a Black woman to the Supreme Court reflected a “hard woke left” outlook that has been “race-obsessed, gender-obsessed.”

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) was rebuked by the White House after saying Biden’s pick would be a “beneficiary” of an affirmative action “quota.”

“The majority of the court may be saying writ large that it’s unconstitutional. We’ll see how that irony works out,” Wicker said, adding that whoever Biden nominates “will probably not get a single Republican vote.”

White House pushes back after Republican senator says Supreme Court pick will be ‘beneficiary’ of affirmative action

Similar conservative criticism was made by Fox News host Tucker Carlson when he recently called Biden’s vow “casual racism of affirmative action.” Incoming Georgetown Law administrator Ilya Shapiro was placed on placed on administrative leave Monday after he asserted that Biden’s pick would be a “lesser Black woman” rather than the best jurist the president could find. Shapiro apologized for a series of now-deleted tweets mentioning how whoever Biden nominated would have “an asterisk attached” to her name as a result.

Incoming Georgetown Law official placed on administrative leave for tweets about Supreme Court pick

Black female judges and law students have celebrated Biden’s upcoming Supreme Court nomination and confirmation. Judge Bernice B. Donald of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit told The Post that Black women have long played a crucial role in “the struggle for equal rights, equal justice and equal opportunity.”

“We have championed the cause of justice; we have championed diversity, equity and inclusion; and we have fought for the rights of others,” she said. “There are so many extraordinarily well-qualified African American women poised and ready to serve. I thank President Biden for recognizing that fact.”

Cruz’s remarks drew immediate blowback. Shuwaski Young, a Democratic candidate who is running for the U.S. House in Mississippi, emphasized that Cruz is just the latest GOP lawmaker who is “ignoring equity on SCOTUS and disrespecting Black Women.”

“We are in times that call upon All of us to speak truth to power,” he wrote on Twitter. “This is unfettered systematic racism.”

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) noted that of the 115 people who were previously confirmed to serve as justices on the Supreme Court, 112 were White and 110 were men.

“Not one was a Black woman,” Beyer tweeted. “Senate Republicans could celebrate this important milestone in American history; instead they’re disgracing themselves.”

On Tuesday morning, Alberto Gonzales, formerly President George W. Bush’s attorney general, called Cruz’s comments “nonsensical.”

“These are extremely well-credentialed individuals and from my perspective, more than qualified to serve on the Supreme Court,” Gonzales told CNN of the potential Black women linked to the nomination. “I just find Senator Cruz’s comments as really kind of silly.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki addressed Cruz’s comments Tuesday, reminding reporters that the senator “had no objection to Donald Trump promising he’d nominate a woman in 2020.” Psaki pointed to Cruz telling Barrett during her confirmation hearing that she was “an amazing role model for little girls.”

“There is no outcry around that,” Psaki said. “The president’s view is that after 230 years of the Supreme Court being in existence, the fact that not a single Black woman has served on the Supreme Court is a failure in the process.”

After Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) defended Biden’s intention to nominate and confirm a Black woman to the Supreme Court, Cruz doubled down on his stance that the president’s pledge is wrong and offensive to Black women.

“Democrats are so casually racist that they’ll make that promise,” said Cruz of the Supreme Court pick, “and not only that, it ends up being insulting to African American women.”

Amy B Wang and Seung Min Kim contributed to this report.

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