Following the retirement of liberal Justice Stephen Breyer, Vice President Kamala Harris could be named the first female and black Supreme Court Justice. President Joe Biden has the power to appoint a successor.
This retirement is timely, and it would increase the chance that Biden’s selection would be confirmed. This would occur before the possible Senate flip in 2022 to Republicans and amid plummeting opinion for the president ahead of 2024.
Biden had previously promised that his first nominee for the Court would be a woman of color before 2020’s South Carolina primary. Thanks to black voters, this was when Biden took control of the race.
Biden did not specify his selection of appointees, like Donald Trump, who provided a list of potential candidates when he ran for office in 2016. Rumors circulated regarding Justice Leondra Kruger, California Supreme Court, as well as Judge Ketanji Jack, Washington, D.C. District judge, but there was no clear commitment.
Harris was the District Attorney in San Francisco, California Attorney general, and then to U.S. Senate, as Vice President. He has a long, but controversial legal record.
Biden and the Democrats could also profit from Harris’s nomination. Biden has been questioned about his mental abilities and bodily capabilities. There are questions about his ability to run for reelection in 2024 or to complete his term. Harris is less popular than Biden, making her unpalatable as an alternative.
Democrats could nominate Harris for the Court — while still controlling Congress, all that would require to confirm Harris’ successor is a majority vote in both Houses according to the Constitution’s 25th Amendment.
A likely candidate is Pete Buttigieg, Secretary of Transportation. Although he’s had some difficulties with basic responsibilities, Buttigieg has been well-known for his interest in the presidency.