Speed Reads

Last Night on Late Night

Justice Breyer tells Colbert the Supreme Court's refusal to halt the Texas abortion was 'very, very, very, very wrong'

Justice Stephen Breyer was Stephen Colbert's main guest on Tuesday's Late Show, and Colbert asked him about the controversial new six-week abortion ban in Texas. "The big news is the court's refusal to block the Texas abortion ban law, even before they ruled on the constitutionality," he began. "You said to NPR that that decision by the court was 'very, very, very wrong.' Why only three 'verys'?" Breyer laughed. "You want to know the truth? You missed one," he said, adding that the last "very" was pretty soft.

"Putting aside the, you know, the tacit endorsement of an essential overturning of Roe in Texas, have you ever seen an example of any law of citizens being deputized to be the people to enforce it?" Colbert asked. "Texas, you know, used to have posses," Breyer said. "And if you've seen Western movies, which you have, you will know that any 10 people can get together and they can, in certain circumstance, be a posse that goes out and captures the outlaws. Well, you asked me for an example," he added. 

Colbert dissented, arguing that posses are not a good example and congratulating himself on being right. Breyer wrote one of the sharp dissents in the Texas abortion case, and he told Colbert the decision by him and Justice Sonia Sotomayor to note their "dissent" without the traditional "respectfully" before it "could be" a swipe at the conservative majority, "but it needn't be."

Colbert also asked Breyer about the perception of political polarization on the court and its antidemocratic makeup, and Breyer called America's system of governance an "experiment" that can be improved through negotiation and listening. "The last question is: Are you going to retire?" Colbert asked bluntly. "Am I going to retire? Eventually. I don't want to die," Breyer said. 

Colbert asked Breyer how all this retirement speculation makes him feel. "George R.R. Martin gets mad when people tell him to write The Winds of Winter, because they say 'You're gonna die before you finish the series of books!'" Colbert said. "Essentially, when people say 'When are you going to retire?' they're afraid you're gonna die when a Republican's in office. ... How do you feel about all the speculation about how long Stephen Breyer's gonna live?" He wasn't thrilled, but he did have an answer to Colbert's most pressing question, about whether a hot dog is a sandwich.