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Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer to Retire

The World Affairs Council presents Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer. 13 October 2011.

Last updated on February 10, 2022

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer announced plans to retire this morning, according to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1994, Justice Breyer served on the highest court in the land for 27 years and is the eldest Supreme Court Justice at 83.

People familiar with the matter report Breyer will step down later this year at the end of the current Supreme Court term.

Breyer’s retirement opens up Biden to his first Supreme Court nomination. On the 2020 campaign trail, then-candidate Joe Biden pledged to nominate the first Black woman to the Supreme Court.

“We talked about the Supreme Court — I’m looking forward to making sure there’s a Black woman on the Supreme Court to make sure we get everyone represented,” Biden remarked in the February 2020 Democratic primary debate.

He later reaffirmed that statement in March 2020, “I commit it that if I’m elected president and have an opportunity to appoint someone to the courts, I’ll appoint the first Black woman to the courts. It’s required that they have representation, now, it’s long overdue.”

Upon Breyer’s announced resignation, Senator Patty Murray of Washington, the third-highest ranking Senate Democrat said, “In the wake of Justice Breyer’s retirement, I want to voice my support for President Biden in his pledge to nominate the first Black woman to the Supreme Court.”

Due to the 50-50 split in the Senate, Biden’s nomination to the Supreme Court would require the support of all 50 Democratic senators plus his vice president’s tie-breaking vote. Notably, to confirm the nominee, Biden would require the support of both Senators Manchin and Sinema, who have been an instrumental obstacle to Biden’s legislative agenda.

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