President Joe Biden said Thursday he will nominate a Black woman to the US Supreme Court for the first time in history, filling the vacancy left by retiring Justice Stephen Breyer.
“I’ve made no decision except (the) person I will nominate will be someone with extraordinary qualifications, character, experience, and integrity,” Biden said in an address from the White House.
“And that person will be the first Black woman ever nominated to the United States Supreme Court.”
Biden, speaking at a podium alongside Breyer, also indicated that he would seek a speedy nomination process, promising to name his candidate by the end of February.
The exit of Breyer, who is 83, gives Biden a likely smooth opportunity to name a replacement to the lifelong seat on the Supreme Court while his Democratic Party retains control of the Senate.
The Supreme Court is currently split between six conservatives and three liberals. Biden will now be able to nominate another liberal-leaning jurist to the court, maintaining the balance.
Breyer had been under pressure from liberals to leave in time for Biden to get his nominee through the Senate before November’s midterm elections when Republicans are in a strong position to win majorities in Congress and would then control the approval process.
As president, Donald Trump had the rare opportunity to put no fewer than three new justices on the court, fundamentally shifting its political leaning for potentially years to come.
Biden’s one pick so far will have nowhere near that level of impact. However, the Democrat will be glad of a successful confirmation process, delivering a much-needed morale boost to his party ahead of the midterms.
As an immediate reminder of the tensions that Supreme Court confirmations often provoke, Republican senior Senator Mitch McConnell warned Biden “not to outsource this important decision to the radical left.”
“To the degree that President Biden received a mandate, it was to govern from the middle,” McConnell said.
In his resignation letter, published Thursday, Breyer underlined the coordinated plan to ensure that the succession moves with minimal upheaval, confirming that he will stay on the court through the packed current term — but not before his replacement is ready.
“I intend this decision to take effect when the court rises for the summer recess this year (typically late June or early July) assuming that by then my successor has been nominated and confirmed,” he wrote.