The day has finally come. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer has taken the many, many hints that he should retire while Democrats still control the Senate and the presidency. Pete Williams of NBC News reports that the 83-year-old justice will step aside.
Granted, Breyer won’t retire until the end of the court’s term in June, and a Democratic senator could die of covid or literally anything else before then. If that were to happen to a senator in a state with a Republican governor who would appoint their replacement, Democrats would lose the Senate and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell would do his worst.
Say it with me: Thank u Steve, but you should have retired in July 2021. Breyer apparently relished being the most senior liberal justice after the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, per a CNN report last summer, and didn’t appear ready to give up that power. But he’s come to his senses.
Now begins the jockeying for Breyer’s replacement. Biden pledged to nominate a Black woman to the court, which would be a first in history. When disgraced legal commentator Jeffrey Toobin hinted at a possible retirement on the high court earlier this month, he floated that Vice President Kamala Harris was a long shot. (He also misspelled the name of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who sits on the powerful Court of Appeals for the Washington DC circuit. Surprise he made the same mistake in a tweet today.)
Dear god, Biden, please don’t nominate Harris to the Supreme Court. She is your VP and doing that would look like you want to dump her before 2024 when there are lots of eminently qualified sitting judges who would be perfect for the role.
It’s important to note that since the court already has 6-3 conservative supermajority, Breyer’s retirement won’t save abortion rights, or voting rights, or affirmative action, or the EPA. It just prevents the court from becoming—shudder—7-2.
Update 1/26/22, 1:05 pm: White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that the decision of any justice to retire is their own and the administration has nothing additional to share.
Update 1/27/22, 1:55 pm: Justice Breyer has submitted his resignation letter to President Biden in which he writes that he will retire at the end of the court’s current term “assuming that by then my successor has been nominated and confirmed.”
Biden also held a press conference Thursday in which he said he would nominate a Black woman to succeed Breyer on the high court, and that he would do so by the end of February. Learn more about the Black women expected to be on Biden’s short list.
This is a breaking news post and will be updated.