Biden announced Breyer’s retirement during an event with the jurist at the White House, with the president saying he planned to pick a nominee before the end of February.
“I’ve made no decision except one: The person I will nominate will be someone with extraordinary qualifications, character experience and integrity,” Biden said. “And that person will be the first Black woman ever nominated to the United States Supreme Court. It’s long overdue in my view. I made that commitment during my campaign for president, and I will keep that commitment.”
Biden said he would consult with senators from both parties, leading legal scholars and Vice President Harris before settling on a nominee, praising Harris as an “exceptional lawyer” and noting her experience as California attorney general and a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“I will listen carefully to all the advice I’m given, and I’ll study the records and former cases carefully,” Biden said. “I’ll meet with the potential nominees, and it is my intention — my intention — to announce my decision before the end of February. I have made no choice at this point.
“Once I select a nominee, I will ask the Senate to move promptly on my choice,” the president said. “In the end, I will nominate a historic candidate, someone who’s worthy of Justice Breyer’s legacy.”
Breyer on Thursday also officially confirmed his upcoming retirement, which was first reported the previous day. He said in a letter to Biden he plans to leave after the Supreme Court’s current term concludes this summer and after his successor has been confirmed by the Senate.
The 83-year-old justice’s decision to step down gives Biden an opportunity to solidify the three-person liberal wing of the Supreme Court with a younger nominee and the chance to diversify its ranks.
Biden vowed multiple times during his 2020 presidential campaign to appoint the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court, and his comments on Thursday leave no doubt he will do so.
Among the women who have been discussed as potential candidates to replace Breyer are Ketanji Brown Jackson, who serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit; California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger; and J. Michelle Childs, a federal district judge in South Carolina who has the support of House Minority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), Biden ally.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has indicated Democrats will seek to move quickly to confirm Biden’s nominee once the choice is made, noting Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation process took just 30 days from the time she was nominated.