Third-ranking House Democrat James Clyburn backed a federal judge from his home state of South Carolina to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer on Wednesday — even predicting the choice would garner Republican support in the Senate. 

News broke earlier Wednesday that Breyer, the oldest member of the high court at 83, was stepping down at the end of this term. ​US District Judge J. Michelle Childs quickly emerged as one of the early front-runners to fill the vacancy. 

During his campaign, President Biden vowed to nominate a black woman to the court if an opening emerged during his administration, and many were quick to hold him to that pledge on Wednesday.​

“I want us to make sure that it is a black woman, I want to make sure that it’s a woman that will get universal support. When I say universal, I mean bipartisan support,” Clyburn, the House majority whip, told CNN Wednesday night. 

“And I know that Michelle Childs will have the support of several Republicans, including the two Republican senators from South Carolina,” he added, referring to Sens. Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham.

Rep. Jim Clyburn has thrown his support behind federal Judge J. Michelle Childs to replace outgoing Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.

Clyburn told ABC News that he had talked with Scott and Graham and described both as “very high on Michelle Childs, and so I think that both of them would vote for her if her name were to be put in nomination.”

Clyburn, whose endorsement of Biden before the South Carolina Democratic primary in February 2020 is credited with boosting the struggling campaign, was responding to a question about whether he was concerned that Vice President Kamala Harris might have to break a tie vote for a high court nominee in the 50-50 Senate.

In the CNN interview, Clyburn sang Childs’ praises.

Judge J. Michelle Childs was nominated to the federal court by President Barack Obama in 2009.

“She’s from South Carolina. I’ve known her most of her life, and she is an incredibly smart woman,” he said. “She is president[-elect] of the [Federal] Judges Association, and she has the kind of diverse background in life, and education, and work.”

“She has been a state judge. She’s now a federal judge. She’s a graduate of a public university down in Florida [University of South Florida], and a public law school here in South Carolina [University of South Carolina], an incredibly smart woman that I believe would do well,” Clyburn added.

A Detroit native, Childs was nominated to the federal bench by President Barack Obama in 2009 and was confirmed by the Senate in a voice vote the following year.

President Biden said during his campaign that if the opportunity arose, he would appoint a black woman to the Supreme Court.
Associate Justice Stephen Breyer announced his retirement from his position on the Supreme Court on January 26, 2022.

In December, Biden nominated Childs to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, but the Senate has yet to take up her nomination.

Other potential contenders to replace Breyer include DC Circuit Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson and California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger.