President Joe Biden is about to have his first opportunity to choose a Supreme Court justice.
Justice Stephen Breyer announced he will be retiring after nearly three decades on the Supreme Court. The high court’s longtime liberal’s retirement means Biden will get his first court opening.
Breyer has been widely described as a “pragmatic force” on the Supreme Court, a court that has shifted away from a balance of liberals and conservatives into being an increasingly conservative court. Breyer has been responsible for attempting to forge majorities with moderate justices.
The retirement comes with just enough time before the midterm elections in November 2022, during which the Republicans could take the Senate back. By stating he will retire now, it means Biden can name and have confirmed a replacement before Republicans have the chance to hold up nominations and block them.
An event is expected sometime today, held by Breyer and Biden, to formally announce Breyer’s plans to retire. It is expected that he will not officially step down before the summer.
Breyer was appointed by then-President Bill Clinton in 1994. In his more than 27 years on the high court, Breyer has been seen as an active and rather cheerful questioner during arguments. His good-natured appearance makes him a well-liked judge, and he has become known for elaborate, and even far-fetched, hypothetical questions that he poses to lawyers during arguments.
Breyer’s appointment will not change the current balance on the court of a 6-3 conservative advantage.
Republicans changed the Senate rules during the era of former President Donald Trump. They allowed a simple majority confirmation of nominees. It meant that Trump managed to appoint three judges in his short four years as president, a highly unusual move.
Trump also decisively altered the balance of the court, appointing exclusively very conservative judges rather than maintaining a balance of four conservatives, four liberals, and one moderate.