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AOC suggests Justice Breyer should retire with Democrats in power

·3 min read
<span>Photograph: Jim Young/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Jim Young/Reuters

The Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez added her voice on Sunday to those of liberals who think the US supreme court justice Stephen Breyer should retire this summer.

Some liberals are keen to give Joe Biden the opportunity soon to pick a younger judge to bolster the left-leaning wing of the bench as it weathers a dominant conservative majority achieved under the Trump administration, and while the Democrats hold power in the White House and Congress.

Breyer, 82, is under pressure as the most senior member of the court’s liberal minority, following Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death last September at the age of 87.

“It’s something I think about, but I would probably lean towards ‘yes’ … I’m inclined to say ‘yes’,” Ocasio-Cortez said when asked on CNN’s State of the Union TV show on Sunday morning whether she supported the views of progressives who want Breyer to step down this month, as the court comes to the end of its term.

She added that she would like to “give more thought” to the topic.

During the 2020 presidential election, Biden signaled that he would like to appoint the first Black woman to the nine-member supreme court, if he had the chance as president.

The New York Democratic freshman congressman Mondaire Jones in April called on Breyer to retire.

“There’s no question that Justice Breyer, for whom I have great respect, should retire at the end of this term,” he said. “My goodness, have we not learned our lesson?”

Breyer has given no indication that he intends to step aside, despite warnings ringing in his ears from liberals that he shouldn’t hang on to his seat and risk having his replacement stymied by a Republican-controlled Senate or selected by a future Republican president.

The latter happened with Ginsburg, who resisted years of hints to retire.

She died in the last weeks of the 2020 election campaign, affording the Republican president Donald Trump his third supreme court pick. The Senate rushed through Ginsburg’s replacement, the ultra-conservative Amy Coney Barrett, boosting conservatives to a 6-3 majority on the bench.

Jones added in his April declaration: “My goodness, have we not learned our lesson?”

And Ocasio-Cortez echoed his views on Sunday, about Breyer retiring relatively early amid the legacy of Ginsburg, when she said: “I believe Representative Jones has a point and we have had very difficult experiences with making the opposite mistake.”

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The supreme court is in the process of issuing decisions this month on cases argued in the 2020-2021 term, including on the Affordable Care Act, voting rights and a religious freedom case that has a bearing on gay equality.

October 2021 to June 2022 will be a very important period for the court, when it is due to hear key cases on abortion and gun rights.

Breyer is regarded as a pragmatist and, nominated by Bill Clinton when he was president, has spent more than two decades on the bench actively eschewing any whiff of celebrity or notion of the court being an extension of party politics.

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