Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer should just retire already
Supreme CourtJustice Stephen Breyeris really old.
- Many Senators who are in charge of confirming his replacement are also really old.
- The longer Breyer waits to retire, the more likely it is that the Supreme Court is dominated by conservatives indefinitely.
- This is an
opinioncolumn. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
It's already ridiculous that the foundation of this country relies on who the president is when one of nine geriatric Supreme Court justices either dies or retires. It's doubly ridiculous then, that a Supreme Court justice would understand this fickle structure, see its constant abuse by one political side, and yet refuse to retire when the party that most aligns with their judicial philosophy is in power.This was the case with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who rejected calls to retire during President Obama's administration when it appeared the Senate could slip from the Democrats' grasp. Obama - who personally tried to nudge Ginsburg into retirement - would have been responsible for choosing her replacement, and a Democratic-controlled Senate could have then confirmed someone who aligned with Ginsburg's liberal values. But Ginsburg decided to stick around, and her death years later during Trump's administration gave Republicans a stranglehold on the court.
It takes a simple majority in the Senate to confirm a president's nominee to the Supreme Court. Currently, the Senate is split 50/50 between Republicans and Democrats. Since Republicans did away with the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees in their push to confirm
What's even less certain is what's going to happen in the midterm elections in 2022. Republicans might not need Democratic senators to retire because they might just lose their contests anyway, reshaping the composition of the senate and potentially making it harder for Biden to get a justice nominee through the door.That makes now the best moment for Stephen Breyer to retire, but like Ginsburg before him, he's being quite stubborn about it. Ginsburg held off on retiring because she felt that Hillary Clinton was going to win the 2016 election. I don't blame the thought process, but Breyer should learn from that mistake and not take any risks when it comes to the unknowable future. Just retire already.
But retiring is a decision based on what's right for the country. It's long past time for older politicians and judges to stop pretending the left and the right are equal in their ambitions for the country. Democrats did not march along to former President Trump's racist and hateful endeavors, Republicans did. Democrats did not utilize apathy when it came to an international pandemic that killed 500,000 Americans, Republicans did. The Republican party isn't going through a Trump phase, that's just who they are now.
Breyer was nominated for the court by President Bill Clinton in 1994. That's nearly 30 years of influential decisions he's played a role in. The things that Breyer has voted in support of - colleges promoting diversity, banning the death penalty for minors, a further separation of church and state, and more - could all be at risk of being overturned if he doesn't retire now and lower the odds for an even more conservative Court.And the idea that the judicial nomination process, even for the Supreme Court, is divorced from
Breyer has seen first hand the corruption of this arbitrary process. He can reject Republican obstructionism and dominance of the Court by just simply going away and being replaced by a younger and potentially more diverse candidate, as Biden has promised to do.
If Stephen Breyer wants to do what's right for the country, then retiring is a no-brainer. Let Biden replace you with someone whose more progressive ideals can help steer the country away from moral misconduct mentioned. Go live the rest of your life on a vineyard somewhere, knowing that your replacement is upholding your values anyway. The best chance for a Senate-approved Biden nominee is right now, and the odds only worsen with the time.
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