Multiple sources confirmed Wednesday that Justice Stephen Breyer will retire. This comes at a crucial time for the Democratic Party, which is reeling from the collapse in Biden's legislative agenda. It also included a push to reform election laws, which voting rights advocates claimed was vital to protecting democracy.
Democrats are trying to rebuild their base with an eye on maintaining a tenuous hold on Congress after November’s midterm elections. Picking Breyer's replacement is a chance for them to take a break from the bruising battles. Democrats believe that Biden's campaign promise to appoint the first Black woman justice will help them reenergize their base, especially Black voters, whose support will prove crucial in the fall campaign.
Aimee Allison, the founder of She the People, an organization encouraging women of color to vote, said, "This is a huge chance for us." "It turns out, appointing a Black woman to the Supreme Court at this moment could help make up for the policy- and political losses we've seen lately."
Allison declared, "It's win!"
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Leondra Krüger is one of the potential nominees. Circuit Judge Ketanji brown Jackson, Sherrilyn Ifill, a prominent civil rights lawyer, and U.S. district judge J. Michelle Childs, who Biden has nominated for an appeals court judge. Childs is a favorite candidate of Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), who gave a critical endorsement of Biden right before the 2020 South Carolina presidential primary.
Although the exact date of Breyer's retirement is not known, Senate Democrats who control confirmation will begin proceedings as soon as possible.
Despite this energetic push, Biden and his party face risks that could jeopardize any political benefits derived from a Supreme Court vacancy in the election year.
The court's 6-3 conservative majority will not be changed by the replacement of Breyer. This has hampered Biden from pursuing major priorities such as his vaccine mandate and testing mandate for large companies.
If every senator Republican votes against the nominee, the president will need to win support from every Democrat in that chamber. This could revive fights that were fought by moderate Democratic senators. Joe Manchin from West Virginia and Kyrsten sinema both fought against the party and defeated its priorities.
Manchin stated that he would examine the pick.
He stated that he takes his Constitutional responsibility to consent to a Supreme Court nominee very seriously. I look forward to meeting and evaluating the qualifications for President Biden's nominee for this Supreme Court vacancy.
The Republicans quickly signaled that they would vote for the nominee regardless of who he was.
"The Democrats know that they will lose the Senate majority in 2022," stated Florida Senator Rick Scott, who heads the Senate GOP's campaign arm. "I predict that Chuck Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader, and whoever is running White House will make all Democrats obey their orders and support a radical liberal with extreme views.
The potential to shift the court has been a motivating factor for Republican voters over the years. Many of them are driven by the goal to reduce abortion rights. However, as the court swings to the right, it has also become a priority for Democratic voter.
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According to AP VoteCast, about 2 out 10 voters said that the Supreme Court nominations were the "single most important factor" in their vote in 2020. However, Biden's voters were more likely to say it was an important factor than Trump's (62% vs. 50%).
The court was expected to play an important role in the fight for the Senate majority in 2022, where Democrats hold the slimmest edge. The confirmation debate is set to begin in earnest by vulnerable Democratic incumbents, from New Hampshire to Nevada. They highlighted abortion rights as a particular issue.
The court's conservative majority indicated that they were open to imposing severe restrictions on abortion in December. They may even reverse the historic Roe v. Wade precedent. The court is expected to make a decision by the summer.
"The next justice needs to understand how their decisions affect the Nevadans that I fight for every single day," stated Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.). She faces a difficult reelection test in a state with a large number of voters supporting abortion rights.
For Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan, it's the same in New Hampshire.
Hassan stated that Justice Breyer's impressive legacy on the Supreme Court includes key votes to protect a woman’s right to choose her destiny and to ensure that the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land. "When it is time, I will review the next Supreme Court nominee of President Biden as part the Senate's approval process."
While the politics may initially be in the favor of Democrats, Republicans quickly seized on the Supreme Court vacancy to raise cash.
The Republican National Committee sent out a fundraising email shortly after Breyer's retirement announcement.
The GOP warned that Biden would pick a nominee who is pro-abortion and anti-gun.
There was still a sense of relief and optimism among Democrats. This included those who were frustrated by the slow pace at which Biden had changed.
Quentin Wathum Ocama, President of Young Democrats of America, said that while it's not a magic bullet, "It isn't a silver bullet," but that it was a significant accomplishment. He has previously been critical of the Biden presidency. "This is huge because of so many reasons. It will get people excited.
Democrats need every support they can get.
JB Poersch is the leader of a super PAC that aligns with Senate Democrats. He said that the nomination fight could help Democratic voters, especially if Republicans attempt to interfere with the process. However, there are no guarantees.
He said, "We have no room to error."