An increasing number of progressive pundits and activist groups have been clamoring for 82-year-old liberal Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer to retire from the bench so President Joe Biden can nominate a like-minded replacement.
For his part, however, Biden does not have any intention of adding to the pressure for the court’s seniormost justice to step down.
“When he decides it’s time”
According to The Hill, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki offered the administration’s perspective during a press briefing on Friday.
There, Psaki made it clear that, as far as the president is concerned, it is entirely up to Breyer to determine if and when he will eventually retire from the lifelong appointment to the nation’s highest court.
In response to a reporter’s question on the subject, Psaki said that Biden “believes that’s a decision Justice Breyer will make when he decides it’s time to no longer serve on the Supreme Court,” according to a White House transcript.
When asked whether left-leaning organizations demanding Breyer’s retirement should “back off” from such rhetoric, the press secretary said: “I think I can just speak to what the president’s view is of the Supreme Court justice’s ability to make his own decisions.”
Psaki noted that she was not “aware of” any discussions between the president and Supreme Court justices, adding that she would be “happy to check if there’s anything we can read out.”
“It’s officially worrisome”
Progressive organization Demand Justice has been at the forefront of an ongoing pressure campaign to secure Breyer’s retirement, as its executive director explained in a statement on Friday.
“We are now firmly in the window when past justices have announced their retirement, so it’s officially worrisome that Justice Breyer has not said yet that he will step down,” said Brian Fallon. “The only responsible choice for Justice Breyer is to immediately announce his retirement so President Biden can quickly nominate the first-ever Black woman Supreme Court justice.”
In addition to public statements, the group is also circulating a petition to demand Breyer’s retirement and has paid for a billboard truck bearing a similar message to circle the Supreme Court building, The Hill notes.
The impetus for this push appears to stem from similar pressure put on the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who rejected the idea of retiring during Barack Obama’s presidency. As a result, former President Donald Trump was able to name Ginsburg’s replacement — Amy Coney Barrett — upon the justice’s death in September 2020.
Biden has vowed to name a Black woman to the high court if given an opportunity to nominate a new justice, but Breyer has thus far given no indication that he is considering retirement any time soon.