Status: 01/26/2022 9:35 p.m
The US Supreme Court is very influential. The appointment of judges is therefore politically contested. Judge Breyer is reportedly looking to step down – making way for a significant replacement.
According to media reports, one of the judges on the US Supreme Court, Stephen Breyer, wants to vacate his post early and thus make room for a new appointment on the Supreme Court. Several US media, including the broadcasters NBC and CNN, reported, citing Breyer’s environment, the 83-year-old has decided to retire.
For the first time in his term of office, US President Joe Biden would have the opportunity to fill one of the nine most influential seats on the court. During the election campaign, Biden had promised to nominate a black woman as a judge on the Supreme Court for the first time in US history in the event of a vacancy. The personnel would not change the current balance of power at the court, but would still be of great political importance.
No official confirmation yet
Breyer himself initially made no official statement. However, various high-ranking politicians have already reacted to his resignation and thanked him for his services on the US Supreme Court. Biden himself said on the sidelines of an appearance in the White House that he would not comment until Breyer had made a statement. CNN reported that the judge could possibly announce his decision this Thursday – together with Biden.
With its decisions on particularly controversial issues such as abortion, immigration or same-sex marriages, the US Supreme Court repeatedly sets the course for society. The nine judges are appointed for life. Their selection is therefore a highly competitive political process.
No change in the balance of power in the Supreme Court
Ex-President Donald Trump and his Senate Republicans were able to place three judges on the Supreme Court during Trump’s tenure. Therefore, six of the nine judges are currently considered conservative. Breyer – currently the oldest of the nine judges – is attributed to the liberal camp. He appreciates compromise, is considered a moderate mediator and leans more to the left. He was once nominated by Democratic President Bill Clinton.
The replacement of Breyer’s seat under Democratic President Biden will not change the balance of power between conservatives and liberals on the court. But progressive activists had urged Breyer to step down early to ensure the replacement falls within Biden’s tenure—before Democrats potentially lose their Senate majority in the fall congressional election.
Justices for the Supreme Court are nominated by the President but appointed by the Senate. There, the Democrats currently only have a wafer-thin majority, which they could lose in the congressional elections in November. So time is of the essence for them.