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Biden doing ‘deep dive’ on ‘about 4’ high court candidates

February 11, 2022 GMT
President Joe Biden walks on the South Lawn of the White House after stepping off Marine One, Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022, in Washington. Biden is returning from Culpeper, Va., where he promoted his administration's efforts to lower health care costs. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
President Joe Biden walks on the South Lawn of the White House after stepping off Marine One, Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022, in Washington. Biden is returning from Culpeper, Va., where he promoted his administration's efforts to lower health care costs. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
President Joe Biden walks on the South Lawn of the White House after stepping off Marine One, Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022, in Washington. Biden is returning from Culpeper, Va., where he promoted his administration's efforts to lower health care costs. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
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President Joe Biden walks on the South Lawn of the White House after stepping off Marine One, Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022, in Washington. Biden is returning from Culpeper, Va., where he promoted his administration's efforts to lower health care costs. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
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President Joe Biden walks on the South Lawn of the White House after stepping off Marine One, Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022, in Washington. Biden is returning from Culpeper, Va., where he promoted his administration's efforts to lower health care costs. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden appears to be narrowing his list of candidates for the Supreme Court, saying he’s looking at “about four people” as Democrats who met with him Thursday say he wants a “persuasive” nominee in the mold of retiring Justice Stephen Breyer.

In an interview Thursday, Biden told NBC the White House is doing a “deep dive” on the candidates to see if there’s anything in their background that would disqualify them. Biden has said his nominee will be a Black woman and he will decide by the end of February.

The comments came just before a meeting with 10 Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee in which he told the senators, many of them his former colleagues, that he wants to nominate a woman in the mold of Breyer who will not only be able to persuade her colleagues but will write “stirring, compelling, lasting arguments,” according to Delaware Sen. Chris Coons, one of the committee members who attended the meeting.

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The senators said Biden would meet soon with candidates. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said the meeting was half “friendly and light” and half serious as the president prepares to make history by nominating the first Black woman for the court.

The weekslong vetting process, and a gradual narrowing of candidates, is routine for Supreme Court nominations. In his NBC interview, Biden did not mention the names of any of the candidates but said he believes his eventual pick will get Republican votes.

“I’m not looking to make an ideological choice here,” he said, adding that he wants someone like Breyer, “with an open mind, who understands the Constitution, interprets it in a way that is consistent with the mainstream interpretation of the Constitution.”

Biden and Senate Democrats have said they want his nominee to have significant Republican support.

Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, another Democratic member of the Judiciary panel, said after the meeting that he thinks Biden’s pick will be a “reset” after partisan Supreme Court battles and the court’s shift to the right under former President Donald Trump. Democrats vigorously opposed his three nominees, but they all now sit on the high court.

“This choice is historic not only because it will bring historic diversity of the court, but also the quality of the person whom the president will appoint, I think, will be historic, and will really help unite the country as well as the court,” Blumenthal said.

Despite the Democrats’ lofty bipartisan goals, it’s unclear if Biden’s nominee will be able to win any GOP votes. Most Senate Republicans have consistently voted against his lower court nominees.

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One Republican who has voted for some of the lower court judges is South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham. He has said he is open to supporting Biden’s nominee and is pushing a judge from South Carolina — U.S. District Court Judge J. Michelle Childs, who the White House said was under consideration for the job earlier this month.

Also under consideration are Ketanji Brown Jackson, who serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger.

Other possible candidates include U.S. District Court Judge Wilhelmina Wright from Minnesota; Melissa Murray, a New York University law professor who is an expert in family law and reproductive rights justice; and Leslie Abrams Gardner, a U.S. district judge for the Middle District of Georgia and the sister of Stacey Abrams, a powerful voting rights activist and nominee for Georgia governor.

Biden told NBC his short list includes nominees who are “incredibly well qualified and documented. They are the honor students that come from the best universities they have experience, some on the bench, some in the practice of law.”

Graham has said Childs is a good candidate partly because she did not go to Harvard or Yale, unlike all the justices currently on the bench.

After the meeting, Blumenthal predicted Biden will nominate someone “of such compelling personal story, of character and intellect that Republicans will have no choice but to support her in some number.”

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Associated Press writer Zeke Miller contributed to this report.