Black female lawmakers call on Biden to pick Supreme Court nominee committed to civil rights
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus have sent a letter to President Biden.
As President Joe Biden prepares to make good on his promise to nominate the first Black woman to the Supreme Court, more than a dozen black female lawmakers in the House of Representatives on Thursday called on him to select a nominee committed to advancing civil rights.
The group of 14 Black female lawmakers led by Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., have sent a letter to the president outlining their priorities, specifically drawing attention to the absence of Black women in the U.S. Senate.
"We write to you as a collective of 14 Black women lawmakers serving in the United States House of Representatives, but write on behalf of the over 21 million Black women in America," the letter, obtained by ABC News, states. "There is not a single Black woman in the United States Senate to vote to confirm the first Black woman nominated to the Supreme Court. For this reason, we write as a collective to commend you for this historic announcement, and ask that the nominee reflect a deep and abiding commitment to adjudicate with moral and legal clarity," the members add.
President Biden has said he expects to choose a nominee before the end of February following a "rigorous" selection process. Of the 115 Supreme Court justices, 108 have been white men. No Black woman has ever been nominated to serve on the high court bench. Biden campaigned on a promise to change that.
"The person I will nominate will be someone with extraordinary qualifications, character, experience and integrity and that person will be the first Black woman ever nominated to the United States Supreme Court," Biden said at Justice Stephen Breyer's formal retirement announcement at the White House in January.
Black women are considered the backbone of the Democratic Party and played a critical role in securing Biden's election victory in 2020. In Georgia, a state Biden won by a razor thin margin -- exit polls showed more than 90% of Black women backed Biden.
"It's long overdue in my opinion, I made that commitment during the campaign for president, and I will keep that commitment," the president said.
The president's historic nomination comes as the justices take up cases on some of the nation's most divisive issues: abortion rights, gun rights, religion freedom and affirmative action. The conservative-leaning court dealt a blow to civil rights organizations on Monday when it restored Alabama's new GOP-drawn congressional map critics say will disenfranchise Black voters. Veteran legal analysts have called it one of the most consequential years for the nation's highest court in a generation.
In their letter to the president, members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including chairwoman Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., point to Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first Black person nominated to the court more than 45 years ago -- noting his record of advancing civil rights and the role it played in landmark rulings regarding fair representation and the death penalty.
"The appointment of a Black woman justice with an established record of working to advance racial justice and eradicating entrenched white supremacy is of the utmost importance in reviving the Supreme Court's credibility," more than a dozen members of the Congressional Black Caucus said.
"Getting a Black woman in the seat is necessary, but we want to make sure that it's a Black woman who's strong on criminal justice reform, has that type of history, strong on worker protections," Bush told reporters, including ABC News, during a roundtable. "I don't have a name. I want the person who has those qualifications to rise to the top."
Bush declined to endorse a specific person on Biden's short list.
She added, "I just don't think it's our place to pit Black women against each other who are trying to get this spot."
ABC's Mariam Khan and Devin Dwyer contributed to this report.