U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer reportedly plans to retire after nearly three decades on the bench, multiple news outlets revealedWednesday, setting the stage for President Joe Biden to select his replacement and raising concerns over potential obstruction by a handful of right-wing Democratic senators.
"The status quo is failing all of us, so Biden's choice is crucial."
CNN reports a "well-placed" unnamed source said Breyer, an 83-year-old liberal, is expected to stay on the bench until the end of the current term and a replacement is confirmed.Two "people familiar with the decision" also confirmed his plan toThe New York Times.
Since Biden's election, some progressives have been pressuring Breyer to step down in order to allow the president to appoint a liberal justice to the high court.During the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden said that he was "looking forward to making sure there's a Black woman on the Supreme Court."
"With Justice Breyer's retirement, President Biden has an opportunity to secure a seat on the bench for a justice committed to protecting our democracy and the constitutional rights of all Americans, including the freedom to vote," Sean Eldridge, founder and president of the advocacy group Stand Up America, said in a statement.
"President Biden promised to appoint the country's first-ever Black woman Supreme Court justice, and he must make good on that promise," Eldridge added. "The president and vice president's voters are watching eagerly to see that he follows through and makes history with his first Supreme Court nomination."
Advocates urged Breyer to retire while Democrats control the U.S. Senate, which must approve the president's pick. Given that the upper chamber is evenly split between Democrats and Republicanswith Vice President Kamala Harris casting tie-breaking votesthere are concerns that Sens. Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who have torpedoed their own party's agenda including by refusing to abolish the filibuster, could thwart a progressive nominee.
Since the Republican-controlled Senate in 2017invoked the so-called "nuclear option"which eliminated the 60-vote threshold for Supreme Court nomineesto secure the confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch, the first of former President Donald Trump's three Supreme Court nominees, a simple majority vote is all that will be required to approve Biden's pick.
"If Manchin and Sinema try to screw around with Biden's nomination to replace Justice Breyer, it's going to be torches-and-pitchforks time," Mark Jacob, a former Chicago Sun-Times editor, tweeted.
Advocates are urging Biden to select a progressive nominee to help counter the court's right-wing supermajority.
"The Supreme Court is dangerously imbalanced, with a 6-3 conservative supermajority actively eroding voting rights, abortion rights, environmental and worker protections, and more," said Eldridge.
Kiern Suckling, executive director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement that"with the climate and extinction crises getting more dire every day, President Biden must now appoint a justice who understands that our existing laws must be used to their fullest extent to save our planet and future generations. The status quo is failing all of us, so Biden's choice is crucial."