(The Hill) — President Biden’s pledge to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court is receiving renewed attention in the wake of reports that Justice Stephen Breyer plans to retire, giving Biden an opportunity to appoint his replacement.
Almost immediately after reports emerged Wednesday that Breyer planned to retire, Democrats issued calls for Biden to put forward a nominee that followed through on his pledge from the campaign trail.
“In the wake of Justice Breyer’s retirement, I want to voice my support for President Biden in his pledge to nominate the first Black woman to the Supreme Court,” Washington Sen. Patty Murray, the No. 3 Senate Democrat, said in a statement.
“The Court should reflect the diversity of our country, and it is unacceptable that we have never in our nation’s history had a Black woman sit on the Supreme Court of the United States — I want to change that,” she said.
Biden on multiple occasions on the campaign trail vowed to nominate the first Black woman to serve on the nation’s highest court. He also said he compiled a list of Black women who could be nominated to the court.
“We talked about the Supreme Court — I’m looking forward to making sure there’s a Black woman on the Supreme Court to make sure we in fact get everyone represented,” Biden said during a February 2020 Democratic primary debate.
He reiterated that pledge the following month, saying: “I commit it that if I’m elected president and have an opportunity to appoint someone to the courts, I’ll appoint the first Black woman to the courts. It’s required that they have representation, now it’s long overdue.”
House Minority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., a staunch Biden ally and one of the most influential Black lawmakers in Congress, had urged Biden to bring up the idea of nominating a Black woman to the court during the February debate, as reported in the book “Lucky.”
Clyburn, speaking last September to Bloomberg TV, said he felt it was important to bring up the issue with Biden and remind him “this is an issue that is simmering in the African-American community that Black women think they have as much right to sit on the Supreme Court as any other women, and up to that point none had been considered.”
Biden’s words carry even more weight now that Breyer, 83, plans to step down from the bench.
Breyer’s retirement comes after months of pleas from liberals for him to make way for a younger justice to take his spot on the court while Democrats have a narrow majority in the Senate. The chamber is split, 50-50, with Vice President Harris serving as a tie-breaking vote.
The timing of Breyer’s departure is consistent with the modern trend of Supreme Court justices stepping down when the White House is controlled by the same party behind their nomination, a dynamic known as “strategic retirement.”