Abelated happy birthday to Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, who turned 83 earlier this month. Breyer just granted an interview to another newspaper, and it’s clear he’s got a wisdom commensurate with his years, and not only on matters of constitutional law.
After the untimely deaths of Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Americans who want a reasonably balanced high court have reason to fear Breyer will hang on to his seat as long as humanly possible.
Scalia, of course, passed away late in Barack Obama’s second term.
The president named the eminently qualified Merrick Garland to replace him, but Senate Republicans under Mitch McConnell refused to even grant him a hearing, hewing to a ridiculous invented principle that they’d have to hear from the voters that November first.
So President Donald Trump got to fill the seat, with conservative jurist Neil Gorsuch. Four years later, this time far later in Trump’s term, Ginsburg expired.
But rather than stick to their own new rule, Senate Republicans under Mitch McConnell rushed hearings and confirmed Amy Coney Barrett. Conservatives now outnumber liberals on the court six votes to three.
Having witnessed all this up close, a proudly liberal jurist like Breyer ought to understand the importance of dictating the timing of his exit.
If he waits until the Senate, the White House or both fall back under Republican control, he’ll be ensuring the court remains seven conservatives and two liberals for years to come.
For months, Democrats tried nudging Breyer to consider collecting his gold watch rather than tempting fate. Now he tells The New York Times, “I don’t think I’m going to stay there till I die,” approvingly referencing Scalia’s words that “I don’t want somebody appointed who will just reverse everything I’ve done for the last 25 years.”
“That will inevitably be in the psychology” of his decision, quoth the good judge. We do not dissent.
— New York Daily News