- Rep. Mondaire Jones is calling on Justice Stephen Breyer to retire from the Supreme Court.
- Jones wants Biden to appoint a new justice and backs expanding the court from nine to 13 members.
- “Court expansion is something that is deeply rooted in the American tradition,” Jones argued.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Democratic Rep. Mondaire Jones of New York on Friday called on Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer to step down at the end of the current term.
During an interview with Cheddar News, Jones said the 82-year-old Breyer needed to retire in order to grant President Joe Biden the ability to nominate a new justice.
After the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last September, former President Donald Trump quickly nominated Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the court, with her successful Senate confirmation effectively reordering the balance of the court and cementing a 6-3 conservative majority.
Many Democrats, still smarting over Trump’s installation of three jurists to the Supreme Court, want to avoid the court becoming even more conservative due to older liberal justices declining to step down during Democratic presidencies, which Jones alluded to in his interview.
“There’s no question that Justice Breyer, for whom I have great respect, should retire at the end of this term,” he said. “My goodness, have we not learned our lesson?”
He added: “I’m really excited about the opportunity for President Biden to appoint and for the Senate to confirm jurists on the Supreme Court who are not hostile to our democracy and will adjudicate cases that will protect and preserve voting rights and will respect the will of Congress, frankly.”
Jones backs an expansion of the Supreme Court and this week unveiled a bill with Democratic Reps. Jerry Nadler of New York and Hank Johnson of Georgia, along with Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, that would expand the court from nine members to 13 members.
While many progressive members support such legislation, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said that she won’t bring the bill up for a floor vote, but instead will support Biden’s commission to study possible changes to the court and citing the need to focus on the president’s infrastructure bill.
“I support the president’s commission to study such a proposal, but frankly … right now, our members and committees are working on putting together the infrastructure bill and the rest,” she said. “I don’t know if that’s a good idea or a bad idea. I think it’s an idea that should be considered and I think the president’s taking the right approach to have a commission to study such a thing, it’s a big step.”
Jones argued that the Democratic proposal was critical to rebalancing the court.
Many progressives want to combat the court’s conservative tilt
“Court expansion is something that is deeply rooted in the American tradition,” the congressman said. “The size of the court has changed seven times in our nation’s history. Now in the year 2021, with our democracy hanging by a thread due to the far-right 6-3 supermajority on the Supreme Court of the United States, we must expand the court in order to save our democracy.”
Rebutting any talk of the GOP using such a playbook in the future, Jones said that Republicans have already spoiled the judicial process with their refusal to consider then-Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland in 2016 for the vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
Former President Barack Obama nominated Garland for the seat less than a year before the end of his second term, with Republicans rationalizing their inaction by stating that the next president needed to fill the vacancy.
“[The GOP] cannot make the same legal arguments that I am making because they are the ones who have indeed packed the court, and we are trying to expand the court to unrig our democracy,” Jones said.
Merrick is now the US Attorney General under Biden.
Breyer, a former judge of the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, was nominated to the Supreme Court in May 1994 by former President Bill Clinton. He was confirmed to the bench in July 1994.
In a recent speech to Harvard Law School students and faculty members, Breyer argued against expansion, fearing it would erode trust in the court.
Jones criticized Breyer for weighing in on the subject matter as a current member of the bench, according to Bloomberg Law.
“I didn’t understand why he was weighing in on the prerogative of the legislature,” Jones said. “I wish that he would just stop talking about that and stick to actually adjudicating cases.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said earlier this month that Biden would not pressure Breyer to step down from the court.
“He believes that’s a decision Justice Breyer will make when he decides it’s time to no longer serve on the Supreme Court,” she said.