The Slatest

Axios: Biden Doesn’t Want to Pressure Breyer to Retire, Fears It Could Backfire

Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor
Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor pose for a group photo of the justices at the Supreme Court on April 23. Erin Schaff/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

The White House isn’t eager to jump on the public pressure campaign to get Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer to step down. Some left-leaning activists within the Democratic Party are trying to get President Joe Biden involved in an effort to get the justice who turns 83 on Aug. 15 to retire. But Biden and his top aides, including White House chief of staff Ron Klain, think the whole thing could be counterproductive, reports Axios.

Progressives are afraid that, if Breyer refuses to retire, there could be another repeat of what happened with Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who pushed back against pressure to step down when Barack Obama was president and died when Donald Trump was in the White House. Although Biden would, of course, be happy with Breyer retiring, he and his aides believe that a pressure campaign against the justice could end up politicizing and damaging the Supreme Court as a whole. And they also fear it could backfire and lead Breyer to hang on longer just to prove he isn’t affected by political pressure. “The President’s view is that any considerations about potential retirements are solely and entirely up to justices themselves,” Andrew Bates, a White House spokesman, said. Many Democrats in Congress also seem to have a similar line of thought as the president, considering the vast majority have, so far at least, avoided getting involved in the public pressure campaign.

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Last month, Breyer told CNN in an interview that he had not decided whether to retire. Breyer said he would make a decision on retirement based on two factors. “Primarily, of course, health,” he said. “Second, the court.” Breyer, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1994, also made clear during the interview he is enjoying his new position as the ranking liberal justice and that is evident in how he has taken a leading role in several key cases recently. Breyer’s seniority means that when justices meet in private to discuss cases, he is third to speak after Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Clarence Thomas, who has been on the Supreme Court for 30 years.

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