Joe Biden has nominated Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer, fulfilling the President’s promise to pick a Black woman. Now, the nomination process enters a new phase.
What happens next?
There will be hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is chaired by Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin. Activist groups and senators will pore over Jackson’s record. Usually the candidate is a judge – and Jackson sits on the federal appellate court in Washington, DC – but there’s no requirement in the Constitution that the person be a judge or even a lawyer. That’s just the recent custom.
Read more about Jackson’s personal history and legal record from CNN’s Ariane de Vogue.
How long does it take to confirm a Supreme Court justice?
The confirmation process timeline varies. For instance, with the 2020 election bearing down and the likelihood they would lose control of the Senate, Republicans pushed through Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination in lightning speed – less than a month. Before that, the last nomination to proceed to confirmation in less than two months was Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s back in 1993. These things usually take months.
But Democrats may well lose control of the Senate in the November midterm elections, so they’ll work to move this process along. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is looking to the Barrett timeline as a model, according to CNN’s reporting.
How many votes does it take to confirm a new Supreme Court justice?
It takes 51 votes in the Senate – a simple majority.
Why not 60 votes?
Republicans are adamant about maintaining a 60-vote threshold for legislation. But they actually nuked the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees during the Trump administration, so confirmation takes only a simple majority.
Vice President Kamala Harris can break a 50-50 tie, which is a real possibility in these partisan times. There are 50 Republicans, 48 Democrats and two independents who usually vote with Democrats. It’s a split chamber.
Will any Republicans vote for Biden’s nominee?
Overwhelming support for nominees, regardless of their political views, used to be routine. Breyer is seen as a liberal justice but he was confirmed 87-9. That kind of bipartisanship has not been seen in recent years.
None of President Donald Trump’s nominees received more than 54 votes. Keep an eye on the more moderate Republicans, like Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
Will all Democrats vote for Biden’s nominee?
West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin has shown himself to be perfectly willing to buck the party line. Democrats will also need to consider other potential wild cards in the Senate.
What will the top issues be?
Voting rights is sure to be a key issue as Democrats make that one of their top priorities heading into the 2022 midterm elections and after a raft of decisions by the current court.
Abortion has previously been a key issue during nomination battles. The current court seems poised to either overturn or drastically scale back Roe v. Wade.
The list goes on.
How long is a Supreme Court justice’s term?
A Supreme Court justice’s term is for life! Or until he or she retires. That’s been interpreted as giving the justices life tenure.
Breyer was 56 when President Bill Clinton picked him in 1994.
Most justices are in their late 40s or early 50s when they’re nominated.
Jackson is 51.
Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, who were appointed by Trump, are both in their early to mid-50s. Barrett is 49. If she serves until she’s 87 like Ginsburg, she would be on the court for almost 40 years.
But do most Supreme Court justices serve that long?
The average length of a Supreme Court tenure has grown a lot. Harvard Business Review did an actuarial analysis in 2018 and argued the average tenure over the next 100 years will grow to 35 years. It was 17 over the previous 100 years.
That also means there will be fewer and fewer of these nominees, which is why Democrats had been itching for Breyer to retire while they control the White House and the Senate.
How do Supreme Court justices decide to retire?
Strategically. Justices have increasingly tried to time their retirements. Republican-appointed justices tend to wait for Republican presidents – like Anthony Kennedy, who retired in 2018, allowing Trump to pick his successor.