The Mad Dash to Replace Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer Begins

President Biden has promised to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court. Here are some contenders.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, one of Biden's potential Supreme Court nomineesTom Williams/Pool/CNP/Zuma

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It’s official: Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer is retiring. The question now is who will replace him.

President Biden appears poised to make good on his campaign-trail promise to nominate the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court. White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed that plan at today’s White House press conference, saying, “The President has stated and reiterated his commitment to nominating a Black woman to the Supreme Court and certainly stands by that.” Biden has already nominated eight Black women to the US Court of Appeals, five of whom have been confirmed. (Before Biden, only eight Black women had ever served on federal appeals courts.)

Political analysts have already floated the names of several potential nominees: Ketanji Brown Jackson, a US appeals court judge in Washington, DC; Leondra Kruger, an associate justice on California’s Supreme Court; J. Michelle Childs, a South Carolina appeals court judge; and Sherrilyn Ifill, an activist and director-counsel of the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund.

Whoever it ends up being, the process will likely be fast. Democrats, faced with the possibility of losing the Senate majority in November, are planning to push Biden’s nominee through confirmation hearings on a timetable comparable to the one former Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pursued for Justice Amy Coney Barrett in the weeks leading up to the 2020 election. Just one month passed between Barrett’s nomination and confirmation. (Having qualms about such speed? Don’t forget that six states with Republican governors are represented by Democratic senators over the age of 70.)

“President 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,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.

Not everyone agrees. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who is 88, says that the Senate Judiciary Committee “will have ample time to hold hearings on President Biden’s nominee.” Feinstein stepped down from her position as the committee’s ranking member after she took a bipartisan approach to Barrett’s rushed confirmation, thanking the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman at the time, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and concluding, “This has been one of the best set of hearings that I’ve participated in.”

Biden is expected to formally announce Breyer’s retirement tomorrow, the New York Times reports.

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the amount of time between Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination and confirmation. It was one month, not 35 days.

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