Black congresswomen praise Biden for keeping Supreme Court pledge amid conservative backlash

A group of 14 Black Congresswomen wrote a public letter to President Joe Biden Thursday, commending him for pledging to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court amid a conservative backlash that he was instituting a "quota" system.

The coalition, led by Rep Cori Bush, D-Mo., are all Democratic members in the House of Representative and include Congressional Black Caucus chairwoman, Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio. The lawmakers note they are writing "on behalf of the over 21 million Black women in America." 

"The nomination of a Black woman is not mere symbolism; it is an essential step for our country’s promise of justice for all," the letter states. 

"It is therefore of utmost importance that the Administration appoints a Black woman with a strong track record of advancing civil and constitutionally protected rights and whose work has shown dedication to affirming the rights of our country’s most marginalized communities."

Rep. Cori Bush speaks during a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol on April 22, 2021 in Washington, DC.

More:Supreme Court fight shows why Americans have such a hard time talking about equity for Black women

Biden pledged to elevate a Black woman to the high court if the opportunity arose, while he was running for president in 2020. He reiterated his pledge when Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer formally announced his retirement last month.

Some conservative lawmakers claimed that by pledging to nominate a Black woman, Biden is filling a quote system and not selecting the most qualified person for the role. 

“The irony is that the Supreme Court is at the very same time hearing cases about this sort of affirmative racial discrimination and while adding someone who is the beneficiary of this sort of quota,” Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., told local radio station SuperTalk Mississippi last month

Potential Supreme Court nominees include: Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit; California Supreme Court Associate Justice Leondra Kruger; and U.S. District Court Judge J. Michelle Childs of South Carolina. 

House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., supports Childs and has pressured the White House to select her as the nominee. 

The White House confirms Judge J. Michelle Childs is being considered for a vacancy to open at the Supreme Court.

Bush said that it was important for the Congresswomen to speak up because the Senate does not have a Black woman among its members that will vote to confirm the eventual nominee. 

"In a moment marked by racial inequity, climate catastrophe, and civil erosion, a track record of moral clarity is crucial. My hope is that we can all rally behind the President’s nominee in the coming weeks,” Bush told USA TODAY through a spokesperson.

More:Black women face obstacles to public office despite Biden's Supreme Court nomination vow

The Supreme Court has only had 7 out of 115 justices who were not white men since it was created in 1789. The high court's two Black justices have been men: Thurgood Marshall, confirmed in 1967, and Clarence Thomas, confirmed in 1991. 

"It is long past time for a Black woman to be on the Supreme Court, and we commend your unwavering commitment to correcting this long-standing injustice on the nation’s highest court so that our institutions can be closer to reflecting the diversity of race, gender, and lived experience in America," the signees wrote. 

More:Who is Justice Leondra Kruger? For starters, she's argued a dozen Supreme Court cases

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee are meeting with Biden at the White House Thursday afternoon. Biden previously met with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the ranking member on the committee. 

The letter is signed by 14 Democratic Representatives: 

  • Cori Bush of Missouri
  • Joyce Beatty of Ohio 
  • Eleanor Holmes Norton of Washington, D.C. 
  • Barbara Lee of California 
  • Brenda Lawrence of Michigan 
  • Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey 
  • Gwen Moore of Wisconsin 
  • Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts 
  • Shontel Brown of Ohio 
  • Nikema Williams of Georgia 
  • Ilhan Omar of Minnesota 
  • Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick of Florida 
  • Robin Kelly of Illinois 
  • Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas