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Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer to Retire

The 83-year-old Clinton appointee’s exit sets stage for President Biden to make his first appointment to the high court

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer has decided to retire, multiple reports say, citing sources close to the judge, setting up a confirmation hearing for a Joe Biden nominee as the president wrangles with several major issues ahead of midterm elections.

According to CNN, Breyer, 83, will remain on the bench until a replacement is confirmed after the end of the current Supreme Court term.

Breyer, appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1994, is known as a judge with liberal-leaning ideology. So the balance of the court will not change from its 6-3 conservative majority. But Breyer’s replacement will likely be much younger and able to serve on the court for decades.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement Wednesday that Biden’s nominee “will receive a prompt hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, and will be considered and confirmed by the full United States Senate with all deliberate speed.”

Sen. Dick Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat from Illinois who serves as the Judiciary Committee chairman, said he looked forward to “moving the President’s nominee expeditiously through the Committee.” 

A Biden appointee will face issues that come before the court in a swiftly changing America. In its most recent term, the Supreme Court has already heard cases that could overturn Roe v. Wade and expand gun rights. In another case, the high court blocked Biden’s vaccine mandate for large companies.

For Biden, the Supreme Court pick helps the president gain leverage ahead of midterm elections as he confronts issues ranging from the Omicron surge to soaring inflation and continuing supply-chain problems amid an uncertain economic outlook.

Biden said Wednesday that he would reserve comment on Breyer’s retirement until after the judge announced the decision.

“Let him make whatever statement he’s going to make and I’ll be happy to talk about it later,” Biden said.

The White House had no details or addition information beyond the news reports of Breyer’s decision, according to press secretary Jen Psaki.

“It has always been the decision of any Supreme Court Justice if and when they decide to retire, and how they want to announce it, and that remains the case today,” Psaki tweeted.