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What has Biden said about Justice Breyer's replacement on the Supreme Court?

Justice Stephen Breyer appears set to announce his retirement in the coming days. The Democrats will likely want to confirm his replacement before the midterms.

Justice Stephen Breyer appears set to announce his retirement in the coming days. The Democrats will likely want to confirm his replacement before the midterms.

Reports surfaced on Wednesday afternoon that Justice Stephen Breyer, one of just three liberals on the Supreme Court, was planning to retire. The 83-year-old has served on the Court for 27 years and his impending exit leaves President Biden with plenty to ponder in the coming months.

Publically the White House say they are waiting for an official announcement from Justice Breyer’s office but behind the scenes much thought will have already gone into his replacement. The Supreme Court is currently split 6-3 in favour of conservative members after President Trump was able to nominate three Justices during his single term in office.

Biden pledged to nominate a black woman while campaigning

Today’s news comes as something as a surprise but the possibility of a vacant Supreme Court place has been known for some time. In fact the subject was even brought up during campaigning for the 2020 Presidential Election and Biden was fairly unequivocal about his intentions.

During a debate in Charleston on 25 February 2020, Biden said: "I'm looking forward to making sure there's a black woman on the Supreme Court, to make sure we in fact get every representation."

In the same appearance Biden vowed to name a woman as his vice president if he was successful, a promise he kept by announcing Kamala Harris as his running mate later in 2020.

Further back in his past, Biden emphasised the importance of diversity of experience and personal background in the Supreme Court. In 2005, commenting on the news that Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was stepping down, Sen. Biden said that he wanted "someone who knows life experience," adding, "we have enough academics on the court."

Democrats could take advantage of narrow Senate majority

In his White House President Biden has amassed a team of highly experienced Washington operators who are very familiar with the confirmation process for Supreme Court nominees. Both he and chief of staff Ron Klain have worked for the Senate Judiciary Committee and they will be under no illusions regarding the task at hand.

With only the slimmest of majorities in the Senate, Biden may need to ensure that all 50 Democrats in the Upper House support his nomination or he risks it being rejected. Complicating things further are the upcoming midterm elections in November which could see the Republicans retake the Senate and take control of the confirmation process.

It typically takes two to three months for a Supreme Court nominee to be confirmed and Biden should have plenty of time to seal his chosen replacement before the November. In fact, placing a popular candidate on the Supreme Court could even serve to re-energise the Democrats’ voting base ahead of the all-important midterm elections.