What’s next for the Supreme Court vacancy?

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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden and Senate Democrats are expected to move quickly to fill incumbent Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer’s seat, seizing the opportunity to energize their voter base ahead of November’s midterm elections, when congressional scrutiny is at stake.

The president promised during his campaign to appoint a black woman to the Supreme Court in the event of a vacancy, and the White House reiterated that commitment on Wednesday. Keeping that promise would be a huge breakthrough for black Americans, who have long been underrepresented in the federal justice system. For Democratic lawmakers, it could also lessen the sting of their failed efforts to pass voting rights legislation or get Biden’s ambitious social and environmental spending agenda across the finish line.

An overview of the confirmation process and what we know and don’t know about what’s to come:


AND AFTER?

The Senate plans to start the confirmation process as soon as Biden makes a nomination. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., said Biden’s pick will receive a quick hearing and be reviewed and confirmed “with deliberate speed.”

Although Breyer is not expected to retire until the summer, the Senate can move quickly to confirm his successor. Democrats could quickly hold confirmation hearings in the Judiciary Committee and even hold a full vote in the Senate before he steps down.

The Senate would simply refrain from sending the president final confirmation vote materials until Breyer steps down. The Supreme Court‘s term usually ends at the end of June.

WHAT DOES IT NEED TO CONFIRM A NOMINEE?

Only a majority in the Senate. The Senate is split 50-50 by party, but Democrats control the chamber because Vice President Kamala Harris can break a tie vote.

Supreme Court nominations previously required 60 votes to be confirmed if a senator objected, but then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., changed Senate rules in 2017 to allow confirmation of Supreme Court justices with 51 votes. He did so as Democrats threatened to obstruct President Donald Trump’s top nominee, Neil Gorsuch.

HOW DOES THE PROCESS WORK?

It is up to the Senate Judiciary Committee to review the nominee and hold confirmation hearings that typically span three days. Once the committee has approved the nomination, it is presented to the Senate for a final vote. This process goes through several time-consuming steps, including meetings with individual senators.

From appointing the first justices in 1789 to considering nominee Amy Coney Barrett in 2020, the Senate has confirmed 120 Supreme Court nominations out of 164 received. Of the 44 nominations that were not confirmed, 12 were rejected outright in a roll-call vote by the Senate, according to the Congressional Research Service.

WHO ARE THE SENATORS TO WATCH?

Supreme Court nominations have become increasingly partisan, so it’s likely that the vast majority of Republicans will oppose Biden’s nominee. But with the court’s ideological balance unthreatened by the nomination — Biden’s pick would not change the court’s conservative 6-3 tilt — some bipartisan support is possible.

Moderate Republican senses Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska will be closely watched as possible swing votes. Both support abortion rights, which are increasingly seen as threatened by the court’s conservative majority. A handful of other GOP senators, including some who are retiring, could be possible cross votes depending on the nominee.

On the Democratic side, all eyes will be on the senses. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. They were prepared to take on Biden and their fellow Democrats when it came to changing the Senate’s filibuster rules. Would they be prepared to do the same before the Supreme Court?

HOW LONG WILL THE CONFIRMATION PROCESS TAKE?

Supreme Court nominations took about 70 days to go through the Senate, but there are no set rules as to how long the process will take. Republicans raced to get confirmation from Judge Amy Coney Barrett ahead of the presidential election. She was confirmed on October 26, 2020, exactly one month after Trump nominated her.

WHAT DO ADVOCACY GROUPS ADVISE DEMOCRATS?

They call for diversity in choice, not just demographically, but also in terms of experience.

“The Supreme Court would be well served by a judge who has served as a public defender or worked to represent legal aid or civil rights organizations,” said Patrick Gaspard, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress. .

“We urge the President and the Senate to move quickly to nominate and confirm the first black female Supreme Court justice, drawing from the extraordinary pool of brilliant and qualified women scholars, jurists, and lawyers that our country has to offer,” said Ben Jealous, president of People for the American Way.

“President Biden has many highly qualified candidates to consider, but we hope he takes this opportunity to not only deliver on his commitment to increasing racial diversity on the court, but also his vision for professional diversity,” Brian said. Fallon, executive director of Demand Justice.

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