President Joe Biden and his top advisers are pushing back on Democratic calls for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer to retire, Axios reports.
Biden and White House chief of staff Ron Klain worry that public or even private pressure on the justice risks politicizing and damaging the court.
Breyer, who turns 83 this month, has made no indication that he plans to step down. But many on the left are worried that Democrats will lose control of the Senate in the 2022 midterms, which would allow Republicans to block a potential Biden nominee in his final two years in office. Democrats do not want to see a situation similar to that of late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died just months before Trump left office and was replaced by hard-right conservative Amy Coney Barrett.
Biden would be “perfectly happy” if Breyer steps down but he and Klain believe that pushing the justice to step down is “tactically stupid” and “could backfire” because he may stay on the job longer to “prove he’s unmoved by political interference,” according to the report.
Dems split on strategy:
The White House said it will continue to be hands-off on retirement decisions.
"The President's view is that any considerations about potential retirements are solely and entirely up to justices themselves,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates told Axios.
Some on the left, like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, have also avoided publicly calling for Breyer to retire.
Some senior Democrats like Amy Klobuchar and Richard Blumenthal have tried to publicly apply pressure on Breyer without directly calling for him to step down.
New York Rep. Mondaire Jones has been one of the most vocal members calling for Breyer to retire, complaining that “senior-in-age justices” denied Obama the chance to appoint more Supreme Court justices.
Democratic group launches pressure campaign:
While lawmakers are largely avoiding pressuring Breyer, Demand Justice, a group led by former Hillary Clinton and Eric Holder spokesman Brian Fallon, has waged a high-priced pressure campaign to send a message to Breyer.
The group first called for him to retire in January and has since hired a billboard truck to circle the Supreme Court building and organized letters from law professors and progressive groups to call on Breyer to step down.
"For Democrats to sit on their hands and be content to potentially watch a slow-motion replay of the RBG situation play out just goes to show the folly of our party's passive approach to the courts over the years," Fallon told Axios. “The Court is already a deeply politicized institution, and there is nothing lost by acknowledging that reality and responding accordingly.”