WASHINGTON — The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Dick Durbin, and the panel’s top Republican, Chuck Grassley, met with the president Tuesday afternoon to discuss a 40-day confirmation timeline for a new Supreme Court pick.
“The Constitution says, ‘advise and consent, advice and consent,’ and I’m serious when I say that I want the advice of the Senate as well as the consent to arrive on who the nominee should be,” President Joe Biden told reporters, according to pool reports.
Biden said that once he announces a nominee to replace Justice Stephen Breyer by the end of the month, he’s hoping for a 40-day confirmation process, a similar timeline to other nominees. That would put the final Senate vote sometime this spring, since Biden has said he will make an announcement by the end of February.
Biden has vowed to pick the first Black woman to serve on the court.
“He’s looking at the nominees and going to report to us,” Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said to reporters after he returned from the White House.
Breyer, 83, was nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1994. He will retire at the end of the 2022 term.
“I had the chance to tell him that I want somebody that’s going to interpret the law, not make law,” Grassley, an Iowa Republican, said after the White House meeting.
The last Supreme Court nominee, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, took 27 days to confirm in a Senate controlled by Republicans in 2020.
During a Tuesday press briefing, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that Biden has been looking at potential Supreme Court nominations for about a year.
“The president’s view is that after 230 years of the Supreme Court being in existence, the fact that not a single Black woman has served on the Supreme Court is a failure in the process, not a failure or a lack of qualified Black women to serve as Supreme Court justices,” she said.
Senate leaders of both parties had little to say about a prospective Supreme Court pick following their weekly caucus lunches, reserving most of their remarks for the economy and tensions with Russia.
Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said Biden’s pledge to select a Black woman would help make the Supreme Court more reflective of the U.S. population.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, the No. 4 Senate Democrat, noted that Tuesday was the first day of Black History Month and said the prospect of confirming a Black nominee was “very exciting.”
Republicans, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Minority Whip John Thune of South Dakota, pledged to treat Biden’s nominee with respect during a “thoughtful process.”
“It’s pretty hard to comment on a nominee until you get one,” McConnell told reporters.
“The Republican minority will treat the nominee with respect and go through the process in a serious, thoughtful way,” he said.
Biden’s pledge to choose a Black woman to serve on the court would allow him to fulfill a campaign promise from 2020.
So far, Justices Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas have been the only Black members of the court. One woman of color, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, has served.
Some top contenders include 51-year-old Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who currently serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. She was previously vetted by the Obama administration in 2016 as a possible nominee to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina is also pushing for the nomination of 55-year-old Michelle Childs, a federal judge in South Carolina who has been nominated to serve on the federal appeals court in Washington.
Childs also has the approval of South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham, who praised her as a “highly qualified” candidate during an interview on “Face the Nation.” Graham is a top member of Senate Judiciary.
Another possible front-runner is 45-year-old California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger and 47-year-old Georgia U.S. District Court Judge Leslie Abrams Gardner, the sister of Stacey Abrams, who is currently running for governor in Georgia.