Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer told CNN on Wednesday that he has not decided when he plans to retire from the bench.
Breyer, in his first public comments amid Democratic calls for him to retire so President Joe Biden can name his replacement before the midterm election, said he was “especially gratified with his new role as the senior liberal on the bench” and gave no hints that he would step down any time soon.
The 82-year-old, who has served on the high court for 27 years, said there are two factors that would determine his decision.
"Primarily, of course, health," he said. "Second, the court."
Democrats have publicly called for Breyer to retire to avoid a repeat of what happened after the death of late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, which allowed former President Donald Trump to replace her with a conservative just months before his term ended.
Breyer basks in seniority:
Breyer, who played a key role in rejecting a recent challenge to Obamacare, told CNN that he has taken on a senior role in court deliberations.
"You have to figure out what you're going to say in conference to a greater extent, to get it across simply," Breyer said. "You have to be flexible, hear other people, and be prepared to modify your views. But that doesn't mean (going in with) a blank mind."
Breyer said he tries to seek common ground and calls dissents a “failure,” even though the conservative justices and the much smaller liberal bloc tend to split on key issues.
Democrats are concerned that Republicans will win back the evenly-split Senate in the 2022 midterm elections, which would allow Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell to block any nominee as he did with former President Barack Obama’s choice of Merrick Garland.
McConnell vowed earlier this year that there is no chance that Republicans would agree to confirm Biden’s pick in his final year in office and said “we’d have to wait and see what happens” if Biden nominates a justice in his third year.
McConnell, though, has praised Breyer for pushing back against Democratic calls to expand the court in response to Republican obstruction.
“I do want to give him a shout-out, though, because he joined what Justice Ginsburg said in 2019 that nine is the right number for the Supreme Court,” McConnell said of Breyer. “And I admire him for that. I think even the liberal justices on the Supreme Court have made it clear that court packing is a terrible idea.”