The top Democrat in the Senate promised on Jan. 26 to quickly hold a hearing on whomever President Joe Biden nominates to replace Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.
Breyer reportedly plans to step down in mid-2022 after the nation’s highest court finishes its current term.
Once Biden nominates a replacement for Breyer, that 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,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who chairs the panel, said Biden has an opportunity with the upcoming vacancy “to nominate someone who will bring diversity, experience, and an evenhanded approach to the administration of justice.”
“I look forward to moving the President’s nominee expeditiously through the Committee,” he said.
Democrats chair all Senate panels because they hold the White House, giving them control of the 50–50 chamber through Vice President Kamala Harris, the president of the body.
Democrats can discharge nominees from the committee and approve them in the full Senate without Republican support, provided there are no defections.
“If all Democrats hang together—which I expect they will—they have the power to replace Justice Breyer in 2022 without one Republican vote in support,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a Republican member of the Judiciary Committee, said in a statement.
“Elections have consequences, and that is most evident when it comes to fulfilling vacancies on the Supreme Court.”
Democrats gained two Senate seats in the 2020 election as well as the presidency.
Other Democratic senators said they were prepared to vet Biden’s nominee.
“Justice Breyer has been a champion of equal justice under the law. I’m thankful for his service & his deep understanding of our Constitution & the rights it protects. I’m ready to get to work to confirm a justice who will continue to uphold these core values for all,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said in a statement.
“I look forward to considering POTUS’s nominee and fulfilling my constitutional role to advise and consent on SCOTUS nominees,” added Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).
Several Republicans offered praise for Breyer, including Graham and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who said he has “always held him in high regard.”
The nominee will be the first to the high court for Biden, who took office in January 2021. Former President Donald Trump had three in four years, including Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who filled the seat left vacant with the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Biden and the White House declined to immediately comment on Breyer’s reported retirement.