Senate Democrats have a lot on their plate right now. They’re trying to get an infrastructure bill off Biden’s desk, the laborious Senate budget resolution is on the agenda, it’s still impossible to work with Republicans, and although midterms are in a little over a year, the campaigns will really start to accelerate this grave. So the last thing they need to worry about is the conservative-leaning Supreme Court, which has already proven to be more than disappointing in recent weeks.
But despite the mountain of work ahead and endless distractions along the way, Democrats can’t ignore the aging elephant in the room: Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.
The hill reports that Senator Schumer may have alluded to Breyer, 82, in a recent letter to Senate Democrats regarding upcoming plans. In addition to warning his colleagues that they could “work long nights, weekends and stay in Washington during the previously scheduled August state duty period,” he said that “As always, Democrats of the Senate are ready to promptly fill any potential vacancies on the Supreme Court should they arise.
Perhaps Schumer was simply pointing out that Democrats need to be prepared to deal with multiple hat-dropping gauntlets. Or, he says, “retirement, bitch.”
It was probably decorum that kept Democrats in the Senate from publicly suggesting that Breyer step down. But at what point do concerns about the uncertain future of law, justice and fairness in America trump decorum? The answer is now, that point is now.
Of course, Breyer’s retirement wouldn’t upset the tribunal’s balance: he’s a liberal judge and, with the Democrats in charge, he would be replaced by another liberal judge. But Breyer retiring ahead of the 2022 midterm election would allow Democrats to replace Breyer with someone half his age and avoid another Ginsburg shit show. The Democratic majority in the Senate is thin as a razor, and any shuffle during the mid-term could be catastrophic. If Republicans return to the Senate in 2022 and Breyer dies or retires sometime after, Republicans will not hesitate to block Biden’s nomination for his replacement. If his seat remains vacant and Republicans manage to reclaim the White House in 2024, we may be looking at a conservative supermajority on the Supreme Court for generations to come.
So, yeah, maybe I don’t know, fucking decorum. The justices of the Supreme Court are proud people. Aging and often ill Judge Ginsburg felt pressured to retire during the Obama administration, but she bristled at the suggestion and refused. Well, she should have stopped: Ginsburg is dead weeks before the 2020 election, and under President Trump and a Republican Senate, she was replaced by the ultra-conservative judge Amy Coney Barrett. Why risk this again? It’s time to do some good old-fashioned peer pressure.