Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, the oldest of the justices, has told CNN that he has no plans to retire any time soon. As one of the liberal justices Breyer is raising concerns among many Democrats due to his refusal to step down. Some hope to see the senior justice retire now, while President Biden is in the White House and they have enough votes in the Senate to confirm a liberal successor he chooses to appoint.
Justice Breyer refuses to retire
Liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died last year after being the most senior member of the court for an entire decade; most of this decade was spent under the Obama Administration.
While Ginsburg was a major hero for many American liberals, there was some anxiety throughout this period about what might happen if Democrats were no longer in a position to nominate her successor.
Supreme Court retirements would be handled very strategically if the parties had their way, but justices have often shown that they have a mind of their own.
Ginsburg, who was appointed under the Clinton Administration, may have assumed that she could afford to wait until another Clinton Administration took office before retiring.
Unfortunately for liberals nationwide 2016 was not a landslide Clinton victory and Ginsburg had no choice but to stay on the Supreme Court until a Democrat retook the White House.
President Trump ultimately was able to replace three justices, including Ruth Bader Ginsburg, with conservative nominees.
SCOTUS anxiety remains for Democrats
The Breyer announcement is not overly concerning for Democrats at the moment; the party is making good progress in consolidating power before 2022 and the White House is theirs until at least 2024.
Anxiety evidently remains if liberals are still hoping to convince one of their own justices to retire prematurely. Breyer is certainly doing nothing to alleviate that anxiety.
If Biden succeeds in his court packing effort, which Breyer has denounced, then the senior justice will become irrelevant and the court will become a permanent liberal stronghold anyway.
Currently, while the Senate remains closely contested, Breyer is still able to raise widespread concerns and traumatic memories of Ruth Bader Ginsburg with his refusal to retire immediately.
If Republicans somehow won a majority in the Senate in 2022 then the entire nomination process might grind to a halt should Justice Breyer die or be forced to retire unexpectedly.
It may seem like a somewhat remote fear for many Democrats still, but as the party works to ensure that another 2016 never happens every contingency needs to be considered.