Politicians announced his retirement on Wednesday.
“Our process is going to be rigorous. I will select a candidate worthy of Justice Breyer’s legacy of excellence and decency,” the president said during a White House appearance alongside Justice Breyer.
“I have made no decision but one – the person I appoint will be someone of extraordinary qualifications, character, experience and integrity, and that person will be the first black woman ever appointed to the United States Supreme Court. united. my opinion.”
Appointing a black woman to the High Court was a campaign promise made by Mr Biden.
Justice Breyer’s retirement after 27 years gives Mr Biden his first chance to fill a vacancy on the nine-member tribunal but will not change his ideological balance.
The court’s 6-3 conservative majority has shown a growing drive to reshape the law on contentious issues, including abortion and gun rights.
Mr Biden’s Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, appointed three justices during his four-year term alone.
Justice Breyer spoke at the White House event about the importance for a diverse nation like the United States to resolve its deep divisions by adhering to the rule of law.
US Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer greets US President Joe Biden in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington on January 27. Source: SIPA United States
“People have come to accept this Constitution and they have come to accept the importance of the rule of law,” he said, holding a copy of the 18th century founding document in his hand.
Democrats, who hold a slim majority in the Senate, aim to quickly confirm Mr Biden’s choice within a timeframe similar to the month-long process that top House Republican Mitch McConnell used in 2020 to confirm the Mr. Trump’s third appointee, Amy Coney Barrett, according to a source familiar with the schedule.
Republicans are seeking to regain control of the Senate in the November 8 congressional elections, underscoring the need for quick action from the perspective of Mr Biden’s party.
Mr. McConnell has indicated that he would block any Biden nomination to the court if his party regains a majority in the Senate.
The President effusively praised the outgoing Justice.
“It’s a bittersweet day for me,” Mr Biden said, noting that he had known Judge Breyer since the 1970s.
“I am here today to express a nation’s gratitude to Justice Stephen Breyer for his distinguished career in public service,” Mr Biden added.
“I think he is a model public servant in a time of great division in this country,” Mr. Biden added, saying: “His genius, his values, his scholarship are the reason Judge Breyer became the judge Breyer.”
Potential candidates include Ketanji Brown Jackson, a former Breyer lawyer who was confirmed by the Senate last June to serve on an influential US appeals court, and Leondra Kruger, who sits on the California Supreme Court.
Another potential candidate is South Carolina federal district court judge Michelle Childs, whom Biden has already appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington.
Justice Breyer, the oldest member of the Supreme Court, was appointed to his post for life by Democratic President Bill Clinton. He has written important decisions defending abortion rights and access to health care, helped advance LGBTIQ+ rights, and challenged the constitutionality of the death penalty.
He often found himself dissenting on a court that moved increasingly to the right.
Democratic politicians and liberal activists on Wednesday hailed the jurist’s decision to step down, allowing Mr Biden to install a younger member who could serve for decades for life.