CLAY: Justice Breyer — news breaking as we started the show — stepping down. Buck, we were talking about it off the air. There are several different names that are out there. Remember Joe Biden has promised that he is going to end up with a black woman on the Supreme Court, and I believe we have a couple of cuts of the announcement on CNN, if I’m not mistaken. Here is the breaking news from CNN as they discussed Stephen Breyer and also who might take over for him.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER: Huge news, John. This has actually just been confirmed by our Wolf Blitzer, that at 83 years old after 27 years on the Supreme Court, Justice Stephen Breyer, the leading liberal on the court, he will retire. We’re still not exactly sure of the timeline, but presumably not until the end of this term which ends usually at the end of June. This retirement announcement comes after what has been a persistent drumbeat of calls from progressives to retire from the court dating back now just about a year. It was about a year ago when the progressive group Demand Justice actually hired a mobile billboard that drove around Capitol Hill in front of the Supreme Court urging Breyer to retire.
BUCK: This is just another admission, Clay, that the Supreme Court is now a political institution, as much as people like to pretend for the sanctity of our democracy or whatever — depending on the day — they either say it is or is not that. Clearly this was a political move. I think it’s funny, too, she says “probably.” I think it’s a safe bet, Clay, I think he’s probably gonna retire at the end of this term.
I don’t think they’re gonna wait until after the midterm elections, given Joe Biden’s poll numbers. But it is also remarkable, this guy 83 years old. I know there are 83 years old listening to this who could run faster than me do more push-ups and are in amazing shape and all that, but I mean that it was even a consideration that he was gonna continue on much beyond this is pretty astonishing.
CLAY: Well, they pushed Ginsburg, the left did, to retire for a long time. And so far, as we know, Breyer has been relatively healthy. And Ginsburg refused to step down and then as a result, ends up having the opposite party give her replacement, Amy Coney Barrett. And look. This has been an issue going back. Thurgood Marshall refused to step down, and then he ends up dying and his placement is Clarence Thomas, right?
So this is… You know, Anthony Kennedy made the choice, “Hey, I’m ready to step down. I want Trump to be able to replace me.” Now Stephen Breyer is making that decision. It’s honestly, I think, a smart move for a Supreme Court justice to step down and know that his seat, if you want to say his or her seat, is going to be replaced by the party that nominated them.
BUCK: Other people can do these jobs. I mean, there’s a lot of very smart lawyers in the country.
BUCK: As we all know.
CLAY: They are replaceable.
BUCK: This notion that you have to stay in this role… The fact that Nancy Pelosi just announced she’s actually running again? I’m just wondering, is Pelosi gonna be a hundred and still showing up on TV and telling all the plebes that we should just listen to her while she’s got all the mansions lined up behind her? It’s ridiculous.
CLAY: Well, I think, Buck, you and I, fortunately, are still relatively young. I think some of these people who end up around those ages are afraid that if they don’t have the motivating factor of the job, whether it’s Nancy Pelosi, Stephen Breyer… this happens in sports a lot, where if you step down, Joe Paterno and Bear Bryant, like you almost immediately die because that’s what you’re living for. I think there’s a fear there.
BUCK: That’s a little morbid, but fair enough.
CLAY: Yeah, it’s dark, but I think there is that fear out there.