Joe Biden confirmed on Thursday that he would nominate a black woman with “extraordinary qualifications, character, experience and integrity” to replace Stephen Breyer on the United States Supreme Court.
Breyer, 83, said in a resignation letter that he would step down at the end of the current term, usually late June or early July, assuming his successor has been named and confirmed.
Breyer’s departure gives Biden the opportunity to nominate another liberal justice to fill the seat, which would maintain the current nine-member bench split of six conservative and three liberal justices.
The president told a White House event that the ability to choose a Supreme Court justice was a “serious constitutional responsibility” and pledged to conduct a “rigorous” process to select a “worthy” successor. Justice Breyer’s legacy of excellence and decency”. .
Biden said he hadn’t made a decision about who he would choose, but reaffirmed a campaign promise to appoint the first black woman to serve on the highest court in the United States.
“The person I appoint will be someone with extraordinary qualifications, character, experience and integrity, and that person will be the first black woman ever appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States,” Biden said. He said he intended to name his pick by the end of February.
Speaking alongside Breyer, Biden praised the jurist for his 28-year tenure on the Supreme Court and four decades as a federal judge.
“I think he’s a model public servant in a time of great division in this country,” Biden added.
Thursday, the two men came full circle. As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in the mid-1990s, then-Senator Biden oversaw Breyer’s confirmation hearings following his Supreme Court nomination by Bill Clinton. He was confirmed by the Senate in July 1994 in a bipartisan vote of 87 to 9.
The process of confirming Breyer’s successor is likely to be contentious, as the appointment of federal judges has become increasingly partisan and resentful in recent years.
The presidents appoint the justices of the Supreme Court, but their choices must be confirmed by a simple majority of the 100 members of the Senate. Democrats control the Senate by the narrowest margin, 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris able to vote in a tie.
Democratic congressional leaders have vowed to move quickly to deal with a Biden nominee, though they must walk a political tightrope if they are to secure the full support of all 50 Democratic senators and possibly win the support of a handful of republicans. Biden said Thursday he would “invite senators from both parties to present their ideas and perspectives” in the nomination and confirmation process.
Joe Manchin, the conservative Democratic senator from West Virginia, broke with his party to support Donald Trump’s 2018 nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, while Susan Collins, the centrist Republican lawmaker from Maine, crossed party lines to s against another Trump candidate, Amy Coney Barrett, in 2020.
As a presidential candidate, Biden has pledged to appoint a black woman to fill any Supreme Court vacancy that arises during his tenure in the White House.
The president has not said who he intends to appoint as Breyer’s replacement, but court watchers have previously speculated that Ketanji Brown Jackson, a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Circuit DC, is among the favorites for the position. A graduate of Harvard Law School, Jackson served as a law clerk for Breyer during the 1999-2000 Supreme Court term.
Breyer, a Harvard Law School graduate who worked as a law professor before embarking on a career on the federal bench, had faced growing calls from progressives to retire after Biden was elected.
These calls intensified after the death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg just weeks before the 2020 election, giving Trump an opportunity to push through Barrett’s nomination and tip the scales of the Supreme Court. decisively in favor of the conservatives.
Progressives fear the new balance of power on the bench could lead to a flurry of decisions that could roll back abortion rights and expand Americans’ access to guns, among other decisions.
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