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In the News

Moving towards the US Supreme Court's first black female justice

Mike McCartney

28th January 2022

Who will replace Justice Breyer, and how will it happen?

It was announced earlier this week that Justice Stephen Breyer is to retire from the bench this summer.

See: Stephen Breyer to retire from supreme court, giving Biden chance to pick liberal judge | US supreme court | The Guardian

And, therefore, the starting pistol has been fired in the race to ins his successor. This means that Joe Biden will seek to fulfil a campaign pledge in appointing the court's first black female justice. This, however, won't be plain sailing for Biden as POTUS.

As the Guardian states:

"There are large hurdles ahead. Looming over the proceedings is the evenly divided 50-50 split in the US Senate, the chamber that will preside over the confirmation hearings of whomsoever Biden picks.

The Democrats hold the casting vote with Vice-President Kamala Harris, but they will need to keep all 50 senators on board during the process. That is a challenge that has eluded the Biden administration in recent months with the high-profile defections of Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema over vital issues ranging from the president’s Build Back Better legislation to overcoming the filibuster to secure essential voting rights reforms.

To reduce any risk of Democratic splits, Schumer will also be looking to lure Republican moderates such as Susan Collins from Maine and Lisa Murkowski from Alaska to their side.

Then there are the nationwide midterm elections in November which will inevitably place a partisan political pall over the confirmation process. Republicans have already begun to test out lines of attack, predicting that Biden’s nominee will be, in the words of the senator from Florida Rick Scott, “a radical liberal with extremist views”.

Rightwing Twitter feeds have also lit up with claims that Biden’s choice of a Black woman would constitute unlawful sex and race discrimination. Those playing the affirmative-action card were forgetting that in 1980 Ronald Reagan pledged to pick the first woman to sit on the nation’s highest court, appointing Sandra Day O’Connor the following year.

Republican leaders will be hoping that by portraying Biden’s choice as a culture wars threat to American values they will help to drive out the party’s base to the polling booths on 8 November.

Similar calculations will be at play on the Democratic side. Party strategists will want to leverage the nomination of a Black woman as an energizing factor at the polls for important elements of its electorate who include African Americans, women and progressive voters."

The Guardian also provides profiles on the leading candidates here: The leading female contenders to succeed Breyer on supreme court | US supreme court | The Guardian

There is a backgrounder, including video, from tutor2u here: Supreme Court appointments process | tutor2u

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