Speed Reads

'golden opportunity'

Why Stephen Breyer's retirement could be the 'life raft' Biden needs

It's the end of one era, but, for President Biden, it's perhaps the beginning of another. 

On Wednesday, it was all-but-officially confirmed that Justice Stephen Breyer would be retiring from the U.S. Supreme Court after 27 years. But for Biden, despite the prickly confirmation path that lies ahead, the news may be good as gold.

It's no secret the president's poll numbers are floundering, what with historic levels of inflation, the current crisis in Ukaine, and an ongoing pandemic exacerbated by the highly-infectious Omicron variant. Fortunately for Biden, however, a SCOTUS nomination is a big deal — big enough to drive "the rest of the news ... off the front pages and leads of cable news," writes Chris Cillizza for CNN. With Breyer's replacement dominating coverage, Biden perhaps now "gets to change the subject from places where the public has very much soured on his approach."

Furthermore, a court opening awards the president "a golden opportunity" to energize his base, Cillizza continues. Politico agrees: "After months of legislative stumbles ... the White House has the chance for a major, legacy-shaping win that the entire Democratic Party can rally around." 

And just as importantly, Biden can now make good on his history-making promise to Black voters — who were a crucial part of his win in 2020 — to nominate a Black woman to the court, both Cillizza and Politico note.

Not that he couldn't bungle the process — that's still always an option — but with just a simple majority required to push through his eventual nominee, filling the opening Breyer leaves behind could serve as precisely the "life raft" (as Cillizza calls it) the president needs.