With Manchin’s expected backing, Gupta would have at least 50 votes to ensure her confirmation unless unexpected Democratic opposition arises. Republicans have by and large attacked her past views and tweets and have characterized her as out of the mainstream, a sign that most — if not all — of them are likely to vote against her nomination as associate attorney general in the evenly divided chamber.
But the West Virginia Democrat told CNN that he is likely to back her nomination because of high marks given to her by the Biden administration’s new attorney general, Merrick Garland.
“I have spoken to Merrick Garland — and he is very high on her. And I have all the respect in the world on his decision making,” Manchin said. “I will be leaning towards because of his support.”
Manchin’s likely support underscores the unique power he has in the Senate to effectively veto President Joe Biden’s agenda on issues that come down along party lines — a position over which he’s previously expressed frustration. “It’s not good. It’s not a good place to be,” he told CNN last week.
At her confirmation hearing, Gupta expressed regret for her past remarks.
“I regret the harsh rhetoric that I have used at times in the last several years,” she said. “I can pledge to you today that if I am confirmed, you won’t be hearing that kind of rhetoric.”
Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, told CNN “it’s possible” that Gupta’s nomination could be advanced out of his committee before the Easter recess begins at the end of next week.
Manchin, though, is undecided on two other nominees: Vivek Murthy, to be surgeon general — whom he opposed for the job under President Barack Obama — and Colin Kahl, Biden’s pick as Pentagon policy chief.
“We’re still looking at it,” Manchin said of Kahl, who has generated GOP opposition over his past tweets.
This story has been updated with additional details.