Can the nation endure? Breyer waxes philosophical in retirement press conference; Biden sets timetable
President Joe Biden listens as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer announces his retirement in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Thursday. Photo by Andrew Harnik/The Associated Press.
President Joe Biden renewed his pledge to nominate a Black woman to the U.S. Supreme Court in a press conference Thursday to announce Justice Stephen G. Breyer’s retirement from the high court.
Biden said he hoped to have an announcement on the nominee by the end of February. The person he chooses will be worthy of Breyer’s legacy, Biden said.
Biden said he will make his selection after consulting with senators from both parties, scholars, lawyers and Vice President Kamala Harris, who has served on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Breyer informed Biden of his plans to retire in a Jan. 27 letter. Breyer said his retirement would take effect when the Supreme Court begins its summer recess in late June or early July, “assuming that by then, my successor has been nominated and confirmed.”
Biden and Breyer referred to divisions in the country during the press conference.
Breyer “has patiently sought common ground and built consensus, seeking to bring the court together. I think he’s a model public servant in a time of great division in this country,” Biden said.
Biden praised Breyer for his “remarkable career of public service and his clear-eyed commitment” to making sure that the laws work for the people.
Breyer held up his copy of a pocket Constitution during his remarks while remarking on Americans’ acceptance of the document. He also cited part of the Gettysburg Address and its references to a great civil war that tests whether the nation can long endure.
Breyer said the United States is made up of more than 330 million people who have every view possible. Yet when he is on the Supreme Court, “it’s a kind of miracle” that people so different are committed to resolving their differences under the rule of law.
Breyer said the United States democracy is an experiment, a view held by former President Abraham Lincoln and former President George Washington.
When he speaks with students, Breyer said, he tells them that the experiment is still going on, and it will be up to them to determine whether it works.
“Of course, I’m an optimist,” Breyer said. “And I’m pretty sure it will.”
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Possible picks for the Supreme Court to replace retiring Justice Stephen G. Breyer. Graphic by the Associated Press.