Stephen Breyer, the senior most justice on the United States Supreme Court and a moderate liberal, is likely to announce his retirement, allowing US President Joe Biden to choose a replacement. The court is now divided 6-3 between conservatives and liberals, with the opening allowing Democrats to choose someone who might remain on the court for decades.
After the 83-year-old justice steps down this summer, Democrats will be seeking for a replacement on the bench while they still have control of the Senate, with Vice-President Kamala Harris' tie-breaking vote.
Senator Lindsey Graham, the previous leader of the Senate Judiciary Committee (the committee that confirms nominees), wrote on Twitter: "If all Democrats stick together — and I anticipate they will — they have the authority to replace Justice Breyer in 2022 without one Republican vote in favour."
Mr. Biden has already stated that if the chance came, he would nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court. Justices of the Supreme Court are appointed for life and occasionally die in office, as was the case with liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in 2020.
When asked about the likelihood of Justice Breyer's retirement on Wednesday, Mr. Biden said he didn't want to get ahead of the justice's decision, which has been rumoured in the American press but is not yet official. "The President has stated and restated his commitment to selecting a Black woman to the Supreme Court, and he absolutely stands by that," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said, declining to say if Judge Breyer will retire, adding it was up to the justice to make the announcement.