Jan 26, 2022 - Politics & Policy

How long it’s taken to confirm Supreme Court justices

Number of days to fill a Supreme Court vacancy
Data: Axios research, U.S. Supreme Court, Supreme Court Historical Society; Chart: Jacque Schrag/Axios

It takes a U.S. president an average of 70 days from the date a Supreme Court seat is vacated to nominate a replacement, according to data from the Supreme Court Historical Society.

Why it matters: With news outlets reporting liberal Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer's plans to retire, Democrats will be looking to confirm President Biden's nominee with enough time to refocus the national political debate ahead of the midterms.

  • At 42 days, the average duration of time between vacancy and nomination was significantly shorter before Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked former President Obama's Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland from having a hearing in 2016.
  • Justice Neil Gorsuch’s nomination bumped the average up to 70 days.

The big picture, via Axios' Sam Baker: Breyer’s retirement won’t help Democrats gain much more power on the court, where conservatives now hold a 6-3 majority. But it will help them avoid losing any more of what little power they have.

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