President Joe Biden is ignoring activists who want him to pressure Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer to retire, Axios reported Tuesday.
Progressives and some other Democrats have encouraged Breyer, who will turn 83 on Aug. 15, to retire so Biden can name a younger liberal judge to the court while their party holds a slim control of the Senate.
Axios reported that Biden and White House chief of staff Ron Klain both believe applying such pressure would politicize and damage the institution of the Supreme Court, sources said.
There’s also concern that pressuring Breyer publicly or privately could backfire and cause the justice to stay in his job longer to prove he’s unmoved by political pressures, sources told Axios.
“The President’s view is that any considerations about potential retirements are solely and entirely up to justices themselves,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates told Axios while declining to comment on how others should approach the Breyer issue.
Conservatives currently hold a 6-3 advantage over liberals on the Supreme Court bench. A new Biden appointee would not change the court’s ideological division, but Democrats are worried that losing Senate control in the 2022 midterm elections could lead to an even more right-leaning court.
Breyer recently told CNN that he had not decided when to retire from the bench. Following Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death last year, he became the Court’s ranking liberal – a status he seems to relish.
Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., have discussed the importance of Breyer retiring without calling directly on the justice to step down.
Rep. Mondaire Jones, D-N.Y., however, has been more obvious in his desire for Breyer to exit. He has blamed “senior-in-age justices” for denying former President Barack Obama the opportunity to appoint more Supreme Court justices, Axios said.
Advocacy organizations also have made it clear they want Breyer to retire.
Demand Justice, led by former Hillary Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon, first called for Breyer to step down in January.
“For Democrats to sit on their hands and be content to potentially watch a slow-motion replay of the [Ruth Bader Ginsburg] situation play out just goes to show the folly of our party’s passive approach to the courts over the years,” Fallon told Axios.
“The Court is already a deeply politicized institution, and there is nothing lost by acknowledging that reality and responding accordingly.”
Demand Justice has run an online petition and digital ads, hired a billboard truck to circle the Supreme Court building, and organized open letters from law professors and progressive groups, Axios reported.