Some on the left are re-upping their calls for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer to retire from the bench Monday after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would block a nominee from President Biden in 2024 if Republicans are in the Senate majority.
McConnell, R-Ky., made the comments on the Hugh Hewitt radio show, sparking outrage from many liberals who recoiled when McConnell did the same thing in 2016 to former President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, then-Judge Merrick Garland.
“Breyer needs to retire,” liberal activist Charlotte Clymer tweeted. “Greatness in public service has to also mean knowing when it’s time to pass the baton, and it’s time.”
“Certainly feels good to yell online about this,” former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau added, “but the only audience that really matters is Stephen Breyer, @JoeManchinWV, @kyrstensinema, and a handful of other Senate Dems who are hiding behind them.”
Rep. Mondaire Jones, D-N.Y., who has been vocal in supporting packing the Supreme Court and in calling for Breyer to step down, also weighed in on McConnell’s comment.
“When I became the first person in Congress to call for Justice Breyer to retire now, while President Biden can still appoint a successor, some people asked whether it was necessary,” Jones said. “Yes. Yes, it is.”
Many liberals have been calling on Breyer to leave the bench for months. Those calls became significantly louder after Breyer gave a lecture at Harvard Law School in which he said that packing the Supreme Court, a policy supported by many Democrats, might be a bad idea that could harm the court’s legitimacy.
“Structural alteration motivated by the perception of political influence can only feed that latter perception, further eroding that trust. There is no shortcut,” Breyer said of court-packing and the court’s legitimacy.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., joined those saying Breyer should step down in a Sunday interview on CNN.
“You know, I – it’s something that I’d think about but I, I would probably lean towards yes. But yes, you’re asking me this question so I’ve just, I would give more thought to it, but, but I’m inclined to say yes,” Ocasio-Cortez said when asked about Breyer in an interview that came before McConnell’s latest comments.
“I think in the middle of a presidential election, if you have a Senate of the opposite party of the president, you have to go back to the 1880s to find the last time a vacancy was filled,” McConnell told Hewitt Monday when asked about a potential 2024 election year vacancy.
“So I think it’s highly unlikely. In fact, no, I don’t think either party if it controlled, if it were different from the president, would confirm a Supreme Court nominee in the middle of an election,” McConnell added. “What was different in 2020 was we were of the same party as the president.”
Indeed, McConnell said as early as Feb. 22, 2016, that “the Senate has not filled a vacancy arising in an election year when there was divided government since 1888, almost 130 years ago.” For that reason, McConnell says, Republicans were being consistent when they confirmed Justice Amy Coney Barrett after stonewalling now-Attorney General Garland’s Supreme Court nomination in 2016.
But Democrats accused Republicans of naked hypocrisy for confirming a Supreme Court justice during an election year in 2020 after declining to do so in 2016.
“Let the record show that tonight, the Republican Senate majority decided to thwart the will of the people and confirm a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court in the middle of a presidential election, after more than 60 million Americans have voted,” then-Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said when Justice Amy Coney Barrett was nominated.
Now, with a 6-3 majority of Republican-appointed justices, many Democrats are demanding Supreme Court vacancies as soon as possible for Biden and the Democrat-controlled Senate to fill.
“If Breyer refuses to retire, he’s not making some noble statement about the judiciary. He is saying he wants Mitch McConnell to handpick his replacement,” Robert Cruickshank, the campaign director at Demand Progress, tweeted.
“Justice Breyer is playing a reckless and irresponsible gamble with the future of hundreds of millions of people,” added former Vox writer Matthew Yglesias.
Fox News’ Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.