Thirteen progressive groups on Wednesday will publicly call on Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer to step down to let President Joe Biden confirm his successor while Democrats control the Senate.
“Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer should immediately announce his intent to retire from the bench,” reads a forthcoming ad endorsed by national advocacy organizations including Demand Justice, Women’s March, Black Lives Matter and the Sunrise Movement.
“With future control of a closely divided Senate uncertain, President Biden must have the opportunity to nominate a successor without delay and fulfill his pledge to put the first Black woman on the Supreme Court,” they said. “If Breyer were replaced by an additional ultra-conservative justice, an even further-right Supreme Court would leave our democracy and the rights of marginalized communities at even greater risk.”
“For the good of the country, now is the time to step aside.”
Their message will run as a full-page ad in Politico. Here’s an image of it:
Other organizations backing the ad are Ultraviolet, Justice Democrats, Battle Born Collective, Common Defense, We Testify, Take Back The Court Action Fund and the People’s Parity Project.
Demand Justice, a progressive judicial advocacy organization, paid for the ad placement. The group has been leading the effort to pressure Breyer to retire. The justice is 82 and has been on the court for nearly 27 years after being appointed by President Bill Clinton.
Brian Fallon, executive director of Demand Justice, pointed to Monday remarks by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as proof that the group is fighting the right fight.
In an interview with conservative radio show host Hugh Hewitt, McConnell said it is “highly unlikely” that he would let Biden fill a Supreme Court vacancy in 2024 if Republicans regain the Senate ― and possibly even earlier.
This is after then-Senate Majority Leader McConnell made the unprecedented decision to deny a Supreme Court seat to President Barack Obama for nearly a year in 2016, saying it was because it was a presidential election year. He and Senate Republicans kept the seat empty until Donald Trump was in the White House and could fill it with a GOP-backed nominee, Neil Gorsuch.
It’s also after McConnell broke from his own supposed standard for confirming Supreme Court nominees by expediting confirmation of another Trump Supreme Court pick, Amy Coney Barrett, just weeks before the 2020 presidential election.
In both cases, because of McConnell’s hardball tactics, Democrats were denied the ability to fill a Supreme Court vacancy.
“Anyone who still doubted that Stephen Breyer not retiring could end in disaster should pay attention to Mitch McConnell’s recent comments,” Fallon said. “If Republicans regain control of the Senate before Breyer’s replacement is confirmed, the court’s legitimacy and our democracy will be at even greater risk. It is good to see even more progressive leaders step forward to say that Breyer needs to step down now to protect his legacy.”
Breyer hasn’t publicly said anything about feeling pressure to retire. But in an April lecture at Harvard Law School, he suggested politics shouldn’t factor into when a judge decides to retire.
“My experience of more than 30 years as a judge has shown me that, once men and women take the judicial oath, they take the oath to heart,” Breyer said. “They are loyal to the rule of law, not to the political party that helped to secure their appointment.”