Senate braces for SCOTUS fight as Breyer retirement announcement leaks

Senate braces for SCOTUS fight as Breyer retirement announcement leaks

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Wednesday he would move swiftly to start the confirmation process for whomever President Biden nominates to succeed Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer after news broke that the 83-year-old jurist plans to retire at the end of the current term.

In a statement, Schumer (D-NY) said the outgoing Breyer “embodies the best qualities and highest ideals of American justice: knowledge, wisdom, fairness, humility, restraint … America owes Justice Breyer an enormous debt of gratitude.” 

“President Biden’s nominee will receive a prompt hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, and will be considered and confirmed by the full United States Senate with all deliberate speed,” the majority leader added.

When Biden selects Breyer’s replacement, it will set up the fourth Supreme Court confirmation battle in the Senate since the beginning of 2017. The last time as many justices ascended to the highest court in the land in a shorter space of time was during the period between 1969 and 1971 — when Warren Burger, Harry Blackmun, Lewis Powell Jr. and William Rehnquist all were nominated and confirmed.

Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer
Justice Stephen Breyer announced that he will retire at the end of the high court’s current term.
AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File
The US Supreme Court
The Supreme Court currently has a 6-3 conservative majority. Breyer is considered part of the court’s liberal wing.
AFP via Getty Images

With Senate Democrats needing only 51 to confirm a new justice, Senate Judiciary Committee member Lindsey Graham (R-SC) issued a statement that read more like an attempt to fire Republican voters up for November’s midterm elections.

“I appreciate Justice Breyer’s service to our nation. He has always been a scholar and a gentleman whose record on the Supreme Court is solidly in the liberal camp. Justice Breyer has always shown great respect for the institution and his colleagues, and I wish him well in the next phase of his life,” Graham said. 

“As to his replacement: 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. Elections have consequences, and that is most evident when it comes to fulfilling vacancies on the Supreme Court.”

A number of Democrats called on Biden to honor his promise during a 2020 primary debate to tap an African American woman to fill the pending vacancy. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer vowed to act swiftly to start the confirmation process for President Biden’s nominee.
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File

“I am ready to move as quickly as possible to consider and confirm a highly qualified nominee who will break barriers and make history as the first Black woman on the Supreme Court of the United States,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said in a statement. 

“.@POTUS you promised us a Black woman on the Supreme Court,” tweeted Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY). “Let’s see it happen.” 

Progressive advocacy groups and a handful of lawmakers had previously called for Breyer, 83, to step down from his position to prevent the possibility of Republicans installing additional conservative judges in the event they take back the White House and Senate down the road.

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