Why it is Crucial That Justice Breyer Resign Immediately

Since the rise of the religious right in the 1970s and 1980s, religious conservatives have attempted to use the Supreme Court to push their vision of morality in the US. They scored a major victory with President Trump’s recent appointment of three ultra-conservative justices in just four years. He was enabled to do this by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s decision not to resign during President Obama’s tenure when she was diagnosed with cancer. To avoid a repeat of this mistake Justice Stephen Breyer, a member of the Supreme Court since 1994, should retire immediately in order to secure President Biden a justice of his choice.

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Justice Breyer, a liberal justice, is the oldest justice on the current court at 82, following the passing of Justice Ginsburg in September 2020. Additionally, with the current Senate being at a 50/50 split between the Democrats and Republicans with Vice President Kamala Harris tie-breaking for the Democrats, a challenge last faced in 2001, the attitude is rather tense. Out of the 100 sitting United States senators, 27 are over the age of 70, with Senator Feinstein being the oldest at 87. In accordance with the current split of parties in the Senate, if a single Democratic Senator passes away, the control of the Senate could potentially switch parties.

History tells us that former Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell cannot be trusted to cooperate with any Democratic administration, especially on matters of the Supreme Court. In March of 2016, with eight months left until the general election and ten months left in his presidency, former President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. Garland, nominated to replace the newly deceased Justice Antonin Scalia, had an extensive resumé including nearly twenty (at the time) years as a federal judge and was the Chief Judge of the D.C Circuit Court of Appeals. He acted as lead prosecutor in the case of the Oklahoma City bombing. At the time, the Senate was held by the Republicans, with Senator McConnell as Senate Majority Leader. Senator McConnell blocked Mr. Garland, stating that the next president, chosen by the American people, should replace Justice Scalia.

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Cases currently being heard and ones on schedule to come before the Supreme Court include cases on the death penalty, the First Amendment–more specifically whether religious speech should be controlled on public land, the rights of LGBT couples to adopt children, the Affordable Care Act, and most likely, abortion. The recent laws passed by the Arkansas state legislature banning any gender-confirming health practices for transgender youth will also, most likely, be brought to the Supreme Court.  The rulings of the Supreme Court do not only put the court’s jurisdiction into effect, but also set precedent for future court cases. Given the judicial leanings of the majority of the court, it would not be a risky guess to say that most likely the rulings would go conservatively on these critical cases. As it is in President Biden’s best interest to confirm a Justice of his own, it is imperative that Justice Breyer step down now in order for the process to begin.