Failed Democrat presidential primary candidate and current Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders weighed in this week on whether Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer should retire and leave a vacancy for President Joe Biden to fill.
Speaking with NBC’s Chuck Todd, Sen. Sanders broke with many of his ideological cohorts on the left, saying the decision on when to step down from the bench is up to Breyer alone.
“I will let the judge make his own decision,” Sanders said, according to Mediaite. “I’m not going to tell him what to do.”
The senator’s remarks represent a serious departure from the long-standing progressive position, held by the likes of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), that Breyer should call his judicial career quits and give Biden the chance to nominate a judge to the high court who would help make the liberal voice heard for decades to come.
Dems want Breyer gone
For his part, Breyer has so far been stubbornly committed to staying on the bench, despite demands otherwise from Democrats.
Besides AOC, New York Rep. Mondaire Jones (D) has also voiced opposition to Breyer’s continued tenure on the high court.
“If Justice Breyer is to be committed to his judicial ideology, he is going to want to be replaced on the bench by someone who is going to vote to uphold the fundamental right to vote in this country and to protect the rights of the most marginalized members of our society,” Jones said earlier this year, according to NPR.
Even more moderate Dems like Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island reportedly want to see Breyer go. According to Mediaite, Whitehouse said in a recent interview that “now would be the right time” for the justice to make such a move.
He did add a caveat: “I don’t know that senators trying to tell you what to do makes that decision easier rather than harder.”
But will he leave?
In their calls for Breyer’s retirement, Dems seem fearful that they’ll lose the Senate in the 2022 midterms, putting Republicans in control of confirming — or not confirming — Biden’s SCOTUS picks. After President Donald Trump got the chance to nominate an unprecedented three justices, the high court is swinging a little too far to the right for progressives’ comfort.
But unless something changes drastically, it looks like Justice Breyer will keep his post on the Supreme Court for the foreseeable future. Even as the eldest jurist on the bench, Breyer is just 82, and with no signs of his health failing, he could serve on the Supreme Court for several more years.
Former Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg served on the court until she died at the age of 87, and she had battled cancer for years before her death. What’s more, it seems the White House is taking Bernie’s side on this one. Sorry, AOC.