Biden pledges to appoint a black woman to the US Supreme Court by the end of February

  • Biden promises ‘rigorous’ search for Breyer’s successor
  • President wants Senate to ‘act quickly’ on nominee

WASHINGTON, Jan 27 (Reuters) – President Joe Biden said on Thursday he plans to name a black woman by the end of February to replace retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, a historic premiere which he described as “long overdue”.

Biden appeared with Breyer, whom he has known since the 1970s, at the White House after the 83-year-old judge officially announced his retirement in a letter to the president. Breyer wrote that he plans to leave at the end of the court’s current term, usually at the end of June, assuming his successor has been confirmed by the US Senate.

Biden, who won the 2020 Democratic Party presidential nomination in large part due to strong support from black voters, noted that he had pledged during that campaign to nominate a black woman for a lifetime office in the High Court and that he would keep his promise.

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“Our process is going to be rigorous. I will select a candidate worthy of Justice Breyer’s legacy of excellence and decency,” Biden said, calling selecting a Supreme Court justice one of the most important constitutional responsibilities. more serious of a president.

“While I studied the backgrounds and writings of the candidates, I made no decision except one: the person I appoint will be someone with extraordinary qualifications, character, experience and integrity – and that person will be the first black woman ever nominated for the Supreme Court of the United States. This is long overdue, in my opinion,” Biden said.

Potential candidates include Ketanji Brown Jackson, a former Breyer lawyer confirmed by the Senate last June to serve on an influential US appeals court, and Leondra Kruger, who sits on the California Supreme Court. Another potential candidate is Michelle Childs, a South Carolina federal district court judge who Biden has already appointed to the US Court of Appeals in Washington.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden believes being a sitting judge is not a prerequisite for his nominee and that the fact that a candidate can garner support from Republicans does not was not an influencing factor.

Biden said he wants the Senate, which his fellow Democrats control with a tiny margin, to “act quickly” once he chooses his nominee. Democrats can confirm a nominee without a single Republican vote, as Republicans in 2017 changed Senate rules to no longer require 60 of 100 senators to authorize Supreme Court nominations.

While Breyer’s retirement after 27 years gives Biden his first chance to fill a vacancy on the nine-member tribunal, it won’t change his ideological balance. The court’s 6-3 conservative majority has shown a growing drive to reshape the law on contentious issues, including abortion and gun rights. Biden’s Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, appointed three justices during his four-year term alone.

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks with Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer as they announce that Breyer will retire at the end of the court’s current term, at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 27 2022. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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Breyer, the court’s longest-serving judge, often found himself at odds with a court that moved increasingly to the right. He spoke at the White House about the importance for a diverse nation like the United States to resolve its deep divisions by adhering to the rule of law.

“People have come to accept this Constitution and they have come to accept the importance of the rule of law,” Breyer said, holding a copy of the 18th century founding document in his hand.


White House officials expect to start contacting and possibly meeting candidates as early as next week, according to a source familiar with the matter. Biden is expected to work with a slate of 10 or fewer.

Senate Democrats aim to quickly confirm Biden’s nominee in a time frame similar to the month-long process that top House Republican Mitch McConnell used in 2020 to endorse Trump’s third nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, according to a source familiar with the planning.

Republicans are seeking to regain control of the Senate in the November 8 congressional elections, underscoring the need for speed from a Democrat perspective. McConnell has indicated he will block any Biden nomination to the court if his party regains a majority in the Senate.

McConnell said in a statement, “The President must not outsource this important decision to the radical left. The American people deserve a candidate with demonstrated respect for the written text of our laws and our Constitution.”

The three Trump conservative nominations that McConnell pushed through the Senate came from a shortlist prepared with input from outside conservative legal activists associated with the Federalist Society.

Biden said he expressed the nation’s gratitude to Breyer for his “remarkable career in public service” and noted previous court-drafted rulings in favor of abortion rights, voting rights, environmental measures and religious freedom.

“It’s a bittersweet day for me,” Biden said. “I think he is a model public servant in a time of great division in this country.”

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Reporting by Lawrence Hurley and Doina Chiacu in Washington and Andew Chung in New York; Editing by Will Dunham, Scott Malone and Diane Craft

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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