Senior Democrats are treading carefully around Justice Stephen Breyer these days, worried that a progressive push to get him to retire could either anger him or come off as overtly political — in either case potentially dashing their hopes of getting a young new liberal on the Supreme Court in his place.
The clock is ticking for the party, because the Senate could fall into Republican hands during the midterm elections next year — or, actually, at any moment. Two members of the Democratic majority are near or just over 80 years old, and they hail from a state where a Republican governor would name their replacement if they weren’t able to serve.
But Breyer — at age 82 the senior liberal on the Supreme Court — is keen on keeping the high court free of political influence. And at a moment when a Democratic president gets to nominate any new justice, and Democrats hold the Senate’s tie-breaking vote on confirmation, an open campaign to squeeze him out could have the opposite of the intended effect.