In a Friday speech to a conservative legal group, former Vice President Mike Pence criticized President Joe Biden for vowing to pick a Black woman to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.
In his remarks to the Federalist Society, Pence lamented that Biden was basing his decision "first and foremost on the candidate's race and gender," The Hill reported.
The former vice president said an ABC News/Ipsos poll published Sunday shows that an overwhelming 76% of Americans want Biden to consider "all possible nominees," while just 23% want him to consider Black women only for the nomination.
"President Biden should consider all possible nominees first and foremost on their character and their commitment to the rule of law," Pence said, suggesting that the focus on "identity politics" was hurting the country.
Pence said he had Justice Clarence Thomas administer the oath of office when he was sworn in as vice president, not because of his race, but because Thomas "is simply the most consistent constitutional conservative on the Supreme Court of the United States."
During his 2020 presidential campaign, Biden said he would nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court if given the opportunity. No Black woman has ever served on the nation's highest court.
When Breyer announced his retirement last week, the president repeated his campaign promise and said he expects to submit a nominee by the end of the month.
Pence's complaint joins that of other conservatives who have said that Biden's promise shuts qualified candidates out of the process and amounts to an "affirmative action" pick. Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Josh Hawley, R-Mo., are among those who have criticized the idea of focusing exclusively on Black candidates.
On Jan. 28, Wicker told SuperTalk Mississippi radio host Paul Gallo that he hopes Biden's pick is "someone who will at least not misrepresent the facts."
"I think they will misinterpret the law," he said.
Wicker also said he believes the nominee will be a "beneficiary" of affirmative action.
"The irony is that the Supreme Court is at the very time hearing cases about this sort of affirmative racial discrimination while adding someone who is the beneficiary of this sort of quota," he said.
The White House pushed back on Republican criticism last week, saying the nomination has not even happened yet and some in the GOP are already finding fault with the pick.
"If anyone is saying they plan to characterize whoever he nominates after thorough consideration with both parties as 'radical' before they knew literally anything about who she is, they just obliterated their own credibility," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.
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