President Joe Biden announced Thursday he will appoint the first-ever black woman to the United States Supreme Court by the end of February.
Biden made the announcement alongside retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer who officially announced his intention to step down at the end of the high court’s term this summer.
“While I’ve been studying candidates’ backgrounds and writings, I’ve made no decision but one,” said Biden. “The person I nominate will be somebody with extraordinary qualifications, character, experience, and integrity, and that person will be the first black woman ever nominated to the United States Supreme Court. It’s long overdue in my opinion.”
Biden made the promise on the campaign trail last year to appoint a black woman to the Supreme Court in the event of a vacancy.
Biden said Thursday that appointing a Supreme Court justice is “one of the most serious constitutional responsibilities a president has.” He added that his administration’s selection process will be “rigorous,” and that he will seek the advice and consent of Senators from both parties as well as outside constitutional scholars and lawyers.
Biden said that Vice President Kamala Harris will play an advisory role in the selection process as well—citing her background as California’s attorney general and as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Some have speculated that Harris could potentially be tapped for the seat on the Supreme Court. But White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Wednesday repeated her previous statement saying that Biden intends to run again in 2024 with Harris on the ticket.
Breyer, 83, has served as a Supreme Court justice for more than 30 years. As part of his retirement announcement, he spoke of the American “experiment” and expressed his optimism that it will continue to work.
“It’s that next generation and the one after that—my grandchildren and their children—they’ll determine whether the experiment still works,” said Breyer. “And of course, I am an optimist and I’m pretty sure it will. Does it surprise you that that’s the thought that comes into my mind today?”
Breyer was appointed by former President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, and is considered to be part of the high court’s liberal-leaning wing.
Supreme Court appointments have been highly contentious political events in recent years, with nearly all Democrats voting to block former President Donald Trump’s three picks. Republican members of Congress have expressed concerns that Biden will select a candidate that will be meant to appease the progressive branch of the Democratic Party.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) made the initial announcement of Breyer’s retirement Wednesday and said 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.”