House Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says she is ‘inclined to say yes’ when asked if Justice Stephen Breyer should retire so that President Joe Biden can appoint a younger liberal judge to the Supreme Court.
‘You know, it’s something I think about, but I would probably lean towards yes,’ Ocasio-Cortez told CNN on Sunday when asked if she thought the 82-year-old Breyer should step down at the conclusion of this Supreme Court term.
‘I would give more thought to it, but I’m inclined to say yes.’
The ‘Squad’ member said that Breyer’s retirement should be discussed if the divided Senate declines to take up sweeping reform measures that passed in the Democratic-controlled House.
‘I believe we should protect our Supreme Court and that (Breyer’s potential retirement) should absolutely be a consideration,’ Ocasio-Cortez told CNN on Sunday.
During Barack Obama’s presidency, the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg resisted calls from liberals to retire so that the Democratic president could appoint a younger judge in her place.
House Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says she is ‘inclined to say yes’ when asked if Justice Stephen Breyer should retire so that President Joe Biden can appoint a younger liberal judge to the Supreme Court
Obama’s successor, Donald Trump, a Republican, was able to appoint three new justices to the high court, including one to fill Ginsburg’s seat.
Ginsburg, who had health challenges in the latter stages of her life, died of cancer in September of last year – less than two months before the presidential election.
Trump’s appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett to fill Ginsburg’s seat gave conservatives a 6-3 majority on the high court.
‘We have had very difficult experiences with making, I believe, the opposite mistake,’ Ocasio-Cortez said on Sunday, a reference to Ginsburg’s decision not to retire.
If Breyer stays on the bench and Biden is replaced by a Republican president in 2025, then the Supreme Court could tilt even further to the right.
Breyer is currently the oldest serving justice. The second-oldest jurist on the high court is Justice Clarence Thomas (72), a conservative who was appointed by President George H.W. Bush in 1991.
The third-oldest judge is Justice Samuel Alito, who was appointed by President George W. Bush. Alito is 71 years old.
During Barack Obama’s presidency, the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (pictured in 2009) resisted calls from liberals to retire so that the Democratic president could appoint a younger judge in her place
Ocasio-Cortez is the second Democrat in Congress to publicly call for Breyer, who was appointed to the bench by then-President Bill Clinton in 1994, to retire.
In April, another progressive lawmaker from New York, House Rep. Mondaire Jones, told Cheddar News he thought Breyer should retire during Biden’s first term in office.
‘There’s no question that Justice Breyer, for whom I have great respect, should retire at the end of this term,’ Jones, the first-term congressman who represents parts of Westchester County and all of Rockland County.
‘My goodness: have we not learned our lesson?’
Currently, the 100-seat Senate, which is the congressional body that confirms judicial appointments, is split evenly between Democrats and Republicans, 50-50.
The vice president, who functions as the president of the Senate, casts the tie-breaking vote, giving Democrats the advantage.
Breyer has not commented on the calls from liberals to step down during Biden’s term.
But he has spoken out against attempts to politicize the high court, including through expanding the number of justices in order to dilute the conservative majority.
In April, Breyer said liberal advocates of big changes at the Supreme Court, including expanding the number of justices, should think ‘long and hard’ about what they’re proposing.
Politically driven change could diminish the trust Americans place in the court, Breyer told a group of Harvard Law School students, faculty and alumni.
His talk, Breyer said, ‘seeks to make those whose initial instincts may favor important structural (or other similar institutional) changes, such as forms of “court-packing,” think long and hard before embodying those changes in law.’
Obama’s successor, Donald Trump, a Republican, was able to appoint three new justices to the high court, including one to fill Ginsburg’s seat – Amy Coney Barrett (pictured in October 2020)
Trump’s appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett to fill Ginsburg’s seat gave conservatives a 6-3 majority on the high court. Breyer is currently the oldest serving justice. From left: Justices Alito, Brett Kavanaugh, Clarence Thomas, Elena Kagan, John Roberts, Neil Gorsuch, Breyer, Amy Coney Barrett, and Sonia Sotomayor
While he has said nothing publicly about his plans, the speech could be read as a kind of farewell address, filled with calls for the public to view the justices as more than ‘junior league politicians.’
He noted, for example, that despite the court’s conservative majority, the court in the past year refrained from getting involved in the 2020 election, delivered a victory to Louisiana abortion clinics and rejected former President Donald Trump’s effort to end legal protections for immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.
Breyer acknowledged that conservative views prevailed in other decisions.
‘These considerations convince me that it is wrong to think of the Court as another political institution,’ he said.
Breyer’s speech was part of Harvard’s Scalia Lecture Series, named for the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
Breyer and Scalia were high-court colleagues for more than two decades.