Sen. Ted Cruz has joined other Republicans in criticizing President Joe Biden for a promise he first made on the campaign trail to name a Black woman to the Supreme Court, calling the vow "offensive" and "an insult to Black women" in a podcast published Monday morning.
"The fact that he is willing to make a promise at the outset that it must be a Black woman I've got to say that's offensive," Cruz, R-Texas, said of Biden on his regular podcast and streaming show "Verdict with Ted Cruz." "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.'"
No Black woman has ever been nominated or served on the U.S. Supreme Court. Two Black men and five women, in total, have served on the bench. There have been 115 justices. In remarks last week, Biden doubled down on his commitment to select a Black woman nominee.
"The person I will nominate will be someone with extraordinary qualifications, character, experience and integrity and that person will be the first black woman ever nominated to the United States Supreme Court," Biden said during Breyer's formal retirement announcement at the White House Thursday. "It's long overdue in my opinion, I made that commitment during the campaign for president, and I will keep that commitment."
Cruz, on his Monday podcast, said such a commitment suggests the candidate who is ultimately named may not be the most qualified.
"It's actually an insult to Black women, if he [Biden] came and said 'I'm going to 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 'OK, I'm nominating the person who is most qualified.' He's not even pretending to say that," Cruz said. "He's saying if you're a white guy, tough luck. If you're a white woman, tough luck, you don't qualify."
During the podcast, Cruz also added that Attorney General Merrick Garland, whose nomination to the Supreme Court was blocked by Republicans in 2016, would be ineligible for consideration under Biden's current criteria. Biden has never publicly discussed re-nominating Garland to the court.
"He's literally got to sit here and be told at the outset he is ineligible because sorry wrong skin pigment and wrong y chromosome," Cruz said. "It is an example how Democrats, in particular the far left, everything is race, everything is that they will discriminate based on race, they will pigeonholed you, they don't care about the individual."
Biden has not yet named a nominee but said he anticipates making a formal nomination before the end of February. Supreme Court nominees only require a simple majority of senators to vote for confirmation, which means there is little Republicans can do to block a Biden nominee if all Democrats stick together.
Republicans can, however, focus on the issue for political traction.
Cruz is not the first Republican to take issue with Biden's promise to name a Black woman to the court.
During a radio interview on Saturday, Mississippi Republican Roger Wicker said Biden's choice will be the "beneficiary" of affirmative action.
The White House is responding to Wicker's comments in a statement Saturday from deputy press secretary Andrew Bates.
"President Biden's promise that he would nominate and confirm the first Black woman to the Supreme Court is in line with the best traditions of both parties and our nation. When President Reagan honored his campaign pledge to place the first woman on the court, he said it "symbolized" the unique American opportunity "that permits persons of any sex, age, or race, from every section and every walk of life to aspire and achieve in a manner never before even dreamed about in human history," Bates said.
But as the White House digs in on its commitment, a new ABC News/Ipsos poll found that a 76% majority of Americans want Biden to consider "all possible nominees" for Supreme Court vacancy. Just 23% want him to automatically follow through on his commitment to name the first black woman to the court.
It is unclear if similar polling was done after previous announcements about Supreme Court nominations.
But even moderate Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who voted with Democrats to confirm both of President Barack Obama's SCOTUS nominees, said on "This Week" Sunday that Biden's handling of the nomination has been "clumsy at best".
Collins said she would "welcome" the appointment of a Black woman on the court, but she told ABC "This Week" anchor George Stephanopoulos that Biden's rhetoric as a candidate "helped politicize the entire nomination process."
"It adds to the further perception that the court is a political institution like Congress when it is not supposed to be," Collins said.
Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who also appeared on "This Week" Sunday, addressed those concerns head-on, saying "take a look back at history."
"Recall that it was Ronald Reagan who announced that he was going to appoint a woman to the Supreme Court and he did, Sandra Day O'Connor. And it was Donald Trump who announced that he was going to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg with a woman nominee as well. So this is not the first time the president has signaled what they're looking for in a nominee," Durbin said.
ABC News' Molly Nagle, Brittany Shepherd and Gabriel Pietrorazio contributed to this report.