Justice Breyer Gives Democrats One Less Thing To Freak Out About
It's about bloody time! Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer has informed President Joe Biden that he intends to retire when the current term ends in June, NBC was first to report this morning.
The 83-year-old justice was appointed by Bill Clinton in 1994, and is the longest serving member of the Court. He's faced major pressure to give up his seat, particularly in light of the Democrats' tenuous 50-50 hold on the Senate. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell held Justice Antonin Scalia's seat open for upwards of a year to deprive Barack Obama of an appointment, and you know damn well if he were Majority Leader again, he'd be delighted to have a 6-2 conservative majority for the rest of President Biden's term.
And while we're not going to say anything bad about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, we will note that some people criticized her for not stepping down in 2013, when she was a sprightly 80 and Democrats controlled the White House and the Senate. Now her seat is filled by Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who is 49. And that is ... sub-ideal.
With enormous respect for Justice Breyer, who has been a liberal stalwart, THANK U NEXT.
President Biden promised to nominate the first Black woman to fill any vacancy on the high court, a promise that would see the third Black justice ever on the country's highest court. The most likely nominee is DC Circuit Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who was confirmed in 2017 with the support of Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, and oddly enough Lindsey Graham. Before assuming the vacancy left when Judge Merrick Garland was appointed attorney general, Jackson was a member of the District Court in DC after being nominated by Obama in 2013. And many years before that, she clerked for Justice Breyer. It's the circle of life.
Judge Jackson is "liberal" in the sense that she treats the real world implications of the courts' rulings as more important than divining the intentions of people who have been dead for 230 years. And she's also 51 years old, so she could be a reliable anchor of the court's liberal wing for decades to come.
Other potential front runners include California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger, who held prominent positions in the Solicitor General's Office under Obama and has significant Supreme Court experience, having clerked for Justice John Paul Stevens and argued 12 cases there herself. And she's only 45 years old!
Republicans are gearing up for a fight here, but they know they're pretty much beat.
"If all Democrats hang together — which I expect they will — they have the power to replace Justice Breyer in 2022 without one Republican vote in support," Lindsey Graham told CNN. "Elections have consequences, and that is most evident when it comes to fulfilling vacancies on the Supreme Court."
For what it's worth, Sen. Joe Manchin voted to confirm Judge Jackson, as he has for every single one of Biden's judicial nominees. Yes, we are all mad at Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema for being horrible, but it seems extremely unlikely that they would vote against Jackson or Krueger, so let's not get ahead of ourselves freaking out here.
In summary and in conclusion, thank God. And thank you, Justice Breyer.
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.