On Wednesday, the news broke that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer will retire at the end of this year's term. The National Review reported:
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer plans to retire at the end of the Court’s current term after serving for 27 years, providing President Biden his first opportunity to appoint a justice to the High Court.
Appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1994, Breyer is joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan on the bench’s minority liberal wing. His retirement was first reported by NBC’s Pete Williams.
Breaking - Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer to retire at end of term, setting up first Supreme Court fight of the Biden presidency. Thanks to Justice Breyer for his service, and watch for more information from the RNLA as his replacement is considered. https://t.co/04vP44LaEp— RNLA ⚖️ (@TheRepLawyer) January 26, 2022
Despite indications that an announcement was coming soon, Fox News' Shannon Bream reported that Wednesday's news was prematurely released.
A bit more clarity. I'm told Justice Breyer had firmly decided on his own to retire and that an announcement was due very soon. And while it appears someone jumped the gun on that, better to characterize him as surprised by events today than "upset".— Shannon Bream (@ShannonBream) January 26, 2022
The Left has been pressuring Breyer to retire since President Biden took office last year.
This Breyer retirement leak is pretty ugly considering aggressive calls frm the Left for him to retire.— Susan Crabtree (@susancrabtree) January 26, 2022
WH @presssec reiterating it shld have been on his terms.
-Justice Souter announced retirement in May
-Justice Stevens announced in April
-Justice O'Connor announced in July
“The dark money left has been pressuring Justice Breyer to step down for a long time, and now it seems like that’s worked.” - JCN President @JCNSeverino on Justice Breyer’s retirement announcement pic.twitter.com/BmlPAtV1BS— JCN (@judicialnetwork) January 26, 2022
While Justice Breyer has said his decision to retire would not be political, there's no doubt that there was a political element to his decision which was made prior to the end of the Court's term. The article continued that Justice Breyer's retirement provides an opportunity for President Biden to nominate and the Senate to confirm a liberal justice before the 2022 midterm elections where there is a sizable chance that Democrats will lose the majority:
At 83, Breyer is the oldest justice on the court and has been pressured by Democrats and progressive groups to step down to allow Biden to install a replacement while his party maintains a narrow majority in the Senate, which must confirm his successor. The Senate can conduct the confirmation process prior to Breyer’s retirement at the end of the term. Majority Leader Schumer intends to take advantage of that option by holding confirmation votes before Breyer officially steps down, sources told CNN.
As Ed Whelan points out, this is the fifth straight time a Democrat president has been given the advantage of an early announcement of intention to retire by a Supreme Court justice.
This would be 5th straight time a retiring justice has given Democratic president luxury of an early announcement. On four previous occasions, president and Dem-controlled Senate took their time. That probably won't happen this time. https://t.co/56lXEgwTIO— Ed Whelan (@EdWhelanEPPC) January 26, 2022
While an announcement on a nominee to replace Justice Breyer likely won't come from the White House for a couple of weeks, President Biden indicated in the past that he would nominate a Black woman to the Court. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki reiterated this during a press conference on Wednesday.
The two most likely candidates are D.C. Circuit Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson and California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger.
2. California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger (45):— 🇺🇸 Mike Davis 🇺🇸 (@mrddmia) January 26, 2022
Harvard; Yale Law; clerked for Justice John Paul Stevens; a former top Supreme Court counsel to President Obama; appointed to her court in 2015; reportedly declined to be Biden’s SG; legal analysis like Justice Elena Kagan
If President Biden nominates someone in the mold of Justice Breyer, it is likely that the Senate will confirm the nominee after an extensive vetting process. However, if he nominates someone who is seen as unqualified or a more political choice, like Vice President Harris, there may be a true battle in the Senate.
RNLA will be monitoring this issue closely in the coming weeks and months.