What SCOTUS's just finished term portends for upcoming elections
A few comments on the Supreme Court, whose term ended June 30.
First, the term was not kind to the Biden administration, which suffered a series of losses on a variety of issues. Whom do conservatives have to thank for that? President Trump and Mitch McConnell, for getting three relatively young conservatives on the Court in just four years. (Credit also goes to Leonard Leo, leader of the conservative legal movement.) For perspective, the last two Democratic presidents, who served sixteen years combined (as opposed to Trump's four), have exactly the same number of appointees on the Court.
Trump's and McConnell's successful collaboration on solidifying the Supreme Court's conservative majority and in getting a record number of district and appellate court judges appointed in a single presidential term illustrates why it is high time that the Republican Party move past its current divisions and recognize this remarkable accomplishment by two different factions of the party. The party needs to stop fighting internally and focus like a laser beam on taking back the House (a tsunami is quite plausible) and the Senate (a steeper climb). Republicans then need to nominate and get 100% behind not their personal favorite candidate, or the one who supports the most issues they care about, but rather the one with this sole criterion in mind: who has the best chance of taking back the White House?
Second, now that the term is over, it will be interesting to see whether Justice Stephen Breyer, who was appointed by a Democrat party president and who turns 83 in August, will submit his resignation, to become effective once a successor is confirmed. Justice Breyer is under great pressure from progressives to do so. They all witnessed liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg hang on for too long (despite her advancing age and a number of previous health scares), only to be replaced days before the 2020 election by Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative justice almost 40 years younger. As a result, justices nominated to lifetime appointments by Republican presidents expanded to six (three by Trump alone) versus three by Democrats.
Breyer witnessed the RBG debacle, understands that the Democrats control the Senate by a razor-thin margin, that this could change in the 2022 midterms, and that the wily Mitch McConnell, the most consequential Senate leader since LBJ, is a master at blocking and filling federal court judgeships. I suspect he is considering these points as he weighs his decision.
Having said that, the forthcoming term, starting in October, could be hugely consequential, with the Court tackling high-profile issues such as abortion, affirmative action, and guns. Perhaps Justice Breyer will want to stick around for one more term after all.
Josh Kantrow is a cyber-security attorney based in Chicago.
Image via supremecourt.gov.
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