Justice Breyer admits he’s considering retirement amid calls to step down

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Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer is considering retirement but reportedly struggling with deciding when to step down, amid a call from progressives to do so before 2022. 

“There are many things that go into a retirement decision,” Breyer told the New York Times, adding that he would like to ensure that the person appointed after him would not “just reverse everything I’ve done for the last 25 years,” quoting late Justice Antonin Scalia.

Breyer, 83, was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1994 by President Bill Clinton. In recent months, he has faced a push from the left to step down prior to the next election cycle as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) vowed to not permit a vote on a Biden nominee during an election year. 

McConnell’s firm stance mirrors his decision to block the appointment of Merrick Garland in 2016. Former President Barack Obama nominated Garland to fill Scalia’s seat, however the Republican-led Senate refused to hold a hearing to approve the appointment. The spot was later filled by Neil Gorsuch, who was nominated by former President Donald Trump. 

Stephen Breyer was appointed as a Justice to the Supreme Court under the Clinton administration.
Ron Sachs/CNP
U.S President Barack Obama (C) greets (L-R) Supreme Court Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer before the State of the Union address on Capitol Hill on January 25, 2011
Some in the left wing have called for Breyer to step down before 2022.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Breyer is the oldest member on the high court and doesn’t believe he will spend his whole life in the role. 

“I don’t think I’m going to stay here till I die — I hope not,” he said. 

In the interview published Friday, Breyer explained there are a lot of factors to consider in making the decision.

 Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and Stephen Breyer join George Stephanopoulos for an extremely rare broadcast interview
Breyer is now the oldest member of the nation’s highest court.
Ken White/ABC News

“There are a lot of blurred things there, and there are many considerations,” he said, adding, “I don’t like making decisions about myself.” 

As he faces the decision of retirement, progressives have also put pressure on President Joe Biden to expand the court to counter its 6-3 conservative majority. 

Breyer told the New York Times that he was “wary” of the push to expand the court, adding that it could send the public a message that the court is a political institution. 

“Think twice, at least,” he said. “If A can do it, B can do it. And what are you going to have when you have A and B doing it?”

Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Associate Justice Elena Kagan, Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett, Associate Justice Samuel Alito, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John Roberts, Associate Justice Stephen Breyer and Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor pose for a group photo at the Supreme Court in Washington, U.S., April 23, 2021.
Speaking in an interview with the New York Times, Breyer said he hoped he would not be a justice at the time of his death.
Erin Schaff/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

The Justice pointed to the “rule of law,” calling it “one weapon against tyranny, autocracy, irrationality.” Expanding the court, he said, could cause the public to lose faith in it and risk the rule of law.

If a vacancy in the high court occurs during his presidency, Biden has vowed to nominate a black woman for the spot.

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