Breyer remarked on his eventual retirement while responding to a question about whether he supports term limits for Supreme Court justices, an issue that has become a political hot potato amid liberal frustration with the high court’s conservative tilt under President Donald Trump’s tenure.
“Well, I can’t answer this question because it is too close to something that is politically controversial. I mean, eventually I’ll retire, sure I will. And it’s hard to know exactly when,” said Breyer, a Clinton appointee.
After Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s recent confirmation to the Supreme Court gave conservatives a 6-3 advantage, a number of Democrats floated radical proposals like expanding the number of seats on the high bench, known as court-packing.
The legal process for expanding the number of seats on the Supreme Court would involve the House and Senate passing legislation to that effect, and the president signing it into law. Since Republicans oppose court-packing, such a move would only be possible in the near-term if Democrats win both Senate runoffs in Georgia and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden prevails in the contested election and is sworn in on Jan. 20.
“And it’s not about court-packing. There’s a number of other things that our constitutional scholars have debated, and I’ve looked to see what recommendations that commission might make,” he said.
“Court-packing is a radical assault on judicial independence,” Davis said, arguing also that other ideas floated by some Democrats, like ending the legislative filibuster—meaning lowering the vote threshold from 60 to 51 votes—and granting statehood to Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and perhaps the Virgin Islands, could lead to a permanent shift in the balance of power in favor of liberals.