President Joe Biden announced Thursday he will appoint the first-ever black woman to the U.S. Supreme Court by the end of February.
Biden made the announcement alongside retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer who officially announced his intention to step down at the end of the high court’s term this summer.
“While I’ve been studying candidates’ backgrounds and writings, I’ve made no decision but one,” said Biden. “The person I nominate will be somebody with extraordinary qualifications, character, experience, and integrity, and that person will be the first black woman ever nominated to the United States Supreme Court. It’s long overdue in my opinion.”
Biden made the promise on the campaign trail last year to appoint a black woman to the Supreme Court in the event of a vacancy.
Biden said Thursday that appointing a Supreme Court justice is “one of the most serious constitutional responsibilities a president has.”
He added that his administration’s selection process will be “rigorous,” and that he will seek the advice and consent of Senators from both parties as well as outside constitutional scholars and lawyers.
When asked later in the day to state the Biden administration’s message to those who would suggest that race is an inappropriate prerequisite for a Supreme Court nominee, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said: “The fact that no black woman has been nominated shows a deficiency of the past selection processes, not a lack of qualified candidates to be nominated to the Supreme Court.”
Biden said that Vice President Kamala Harris will play an advisory role in the selection process as well—citing her background as California’s attorney general and as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Some have speculated that Harris could potentially be tapped for the seat on the Supreme Court. But Psaki on Wednesday repeated her previous statement saying that Biden intends to run again in 2024 with Harris on the ticket.
Another name reportedly being considered is Ketanji Brown Jackson, 51. She is a former Breyer clerk who worked at the U.S. Sentencing Commission and has been a federal trial court judge since 2013 in the District of Columbia. Biden met Jackson personally when he interviewed her for her current post as an appeals court judge in the D.C. circuit.
Another is U.S. District of South Carolina Judge J. Michelle Childs. She has been nominated but not yet confirmed to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Another is California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger. She is a graduate of Harvard and of Yale’s law school, was previously a Supreme Court clerk, and has argued a dozen cases before the justices as a lawyer for the federal government.
Biden has overseen several Supreme Court nominations during his time on the Senate Judiciary Committee. But this will be his first Supreme Court nomination as president. Jared Carter, an assistant professor at Vermont Law School posited that it may be his only one, in an interview with The Epoch Times on Wednesday.
“This is going to be, probably, Biden’s only opportunity, so my guess is they are going to be looking for someone younger because remember U.S. Supreme Court Justice is for life,” said Carter. “So, you know, if you appoint somebody on the older side, that person isn’t going to be there that long. “
Breyer, 83, has served as a Supreme Court justice for more than 30 years. As part of his retirement announcement, he spoke of the American “experiment” and expressed his optimism that it will continue to work.
“It’s that next generation and the one after that—my grandchildren and their children—they’ll determine whether the experiment still works,” said Breyer. “And of course, I am an optimist and I’m pretty sure it will. Does it surprise you that that’s the thought that comes into my mind today?”
Breyer was appointed by former President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, and is considered to be part of the high court’s liberal-leaning wing.
Supreme Court appointments have been highly contentious political events in recent years, with nearly all Democrats voting to block former President Donald Trump’s three picks. Republican members of Congress have expressed concerns that Biden will select a candidate that will be meant to appease the progressive branch of the Democratic Party.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) made the initial announcement of Breyer’s retirement Wednesday and said Biden’s nominee “will receive a prompt hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee and will be considered and confirmed by the full United States Senate with all deliberate speed.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story has been updated.