President Biden announced he will nominate federal judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to fill retiring Justice Stephen G. Breyer’s seat on the Supreme Court. Breyer, 83, has served on the court for nearly three decades and plans to retire after the current term concludes.
Here’s how the confirmation process works for a Supreme Court nominee:
Republicans rammed through a change in Senate rules in 2017 to ensure the confirmation of President Donald Trump’s first nominee, Neil M. Gorsuch, with a simple majority vote after blocking President Barack Obama from filling the vacancy for much of 2016. That change will probably smooth the path for confirmation, although the Senate remains evenly divided, with Vice President Harris casting the tiebreaking vote.
In fall 2020, despite the dying wishes of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Republicans pushed through the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett in a matter of weeks. Trump nominated her on Sept. 26, and she was confirmed Oct. 26, eight days before the election. Between 1975 and 2016, it took about 70 days on average to confirm a justice.
Jackson’s confirmation hearings are scheduled to begin on March 21. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) set a goal of confirming Biden’s nominee before the Easter recess, which is scheduled to begin April 8. This would mean that the confirmation process would take 43 days or fewer.
“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,” Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement.
Although the ideological balance of the court is unlikely to shift significantly, Biden has a chance to make good on his campaign promise to nominate the first Black female justice. The Senate can begin the confirmation process while Breyer is still on the bench, according to senior Senate aides.