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Race to replace Justice Stephen Breyer intensifies this week

Breyer
Posted at 5:00 AM, Jan 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-31 07:29:14-05

WASHINGTON, D.C. — This week, President Joe Biden will continue to review candidates for the upcoming vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court.

NOT WASTING TIME

Justice Stephen Breyer has committed to remaining on the high court until the end of the current term this summer. However, Biden has committed to naming a nominee by the end of February. That means background checks and in-person interviews will take place over the next few weeks.

FIGHT IN CONGRESS

For the moment, it looks like the month of March is when the confirmation process in the Senate will begin and possibly end.

The nominee will first do what all current justices have done: Meet one-on-one with senators, especially those whose votes will be critical for confirmation.

From there, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a public hearing where the nominee will answer various questions. That usually happens over a span of several days.

If all goes smoothly, a final confirmation vote will take place on the Senate floor days after the hearings.

In 2017, Mitch McConnell, the Senate's top Republican, changed the rules to make it easier for Supreme Court picks to be confirmed. Only a majority vote is now needed.

That means if every Democrat in the Senate supports the nominee — and all Republicans oppose — Vice President Kamala Harris will cast the tie-breaking vote, confirming a new justice 51-50.

It is possible that some Republicans will vote for the nominee. If that happens, Harris' vote would not be needed.

WHAT'S DIFFERENT THIS TIME?

While getting every Democrat to go along with the selection is expected, it is not necessarily guaranteed.

Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have shown a willingness to reject initiatives from the White House over the course of the last year.

However, the duo has been more willing to confirm the president's selections to various positions, including federal judge vacancies.

For the moment, the only big difference from previous confirmation battles is that Biden has said the nominee will be a Black woman.

Some of the leading contenders include:

  • Ketanji Brown Jackson — Former public defender and current judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals.
  • Leondra Kruger — Justice on the California Supreme Court.
  • J. Michelle Childs — Federal district court judge. She also has the endorsement of the influential Congressman Jim Clyburn of South Carolina.

IMPACT ON YOU

Breyer is a liberal-leaning justice, and Biden is expected to name another liberal-leaning justice. That means any overall impact will be extremely limited.

Conservatives will continue to have the majority on the high court when it comes to controversial issues like abortion, guns, and religion.