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Blumenthal reflects on Justice Breyer’s career, future of Supreme Court

Matt Dwyer
Connecticut Public
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal speaks during a news conference outside Saint Francis Hospital in Hartford, Jan. 26, 2022.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut says the retirement of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer comes at a critical time.

“The credibility of the court has never been more threatened and its independence and authority more at risk. I look forward to a swift confirmation process,” Blumenthal said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.

Blumenthal spoke about Breyer at an unrelated news conference outside Saint Francis Hospital in Hartford on Wednesday shortly after the retirement was announced.

“Justice Breyer really has served the country well by looking at the calendar and making the right decision about his resignation,” he said.

Breyer is a member of the court's liberal wing. By stepping down while Democrats control the Senate and the White House, Breyer makes it more likely that he will be replaced by a liberal justice.

Blumenthal, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, would play a key role in the confirmation process for candidates nominated by President Joe Biden to serve as Breyer’s replacement. Biden promised in his 2020 campaign to appoint the first Black woman justice to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“All of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle have an obligation to move forward with confirming the president's nominee, in the interests of the country and the court,” Blumenthal said. “The rule of law really obligates all of us, and I hope they will meet that obligation.”

Blumenthal said the retiring justice is a pragmatic progressive who has been conscious of the real-life consequences of his decisions.

“I hope that his successor will have the same extraordinary qualities of intellect and integrity as well as commitment to the constitutional freedoms and guarantees that make our country great,” Blumenthal said.

Reflecting on Breyer’s time on the bench over more than two decades, the Democratic senator said the moderate liberal justice played a key role over the years.

“Justice Breyer’s service has been unsurpassed in distinction as a pragmatic progressive,” he said. “He is a brilliant scholar and thinker who has sought practical and workable solutions in a deeply divided court.”

Blumenthal said he expects Breyer’s retirement will take effect at the end of the current court term, but he says the nomination process can begin before then.

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut said the country is “better today as a result of Justice Breyer’s commitment to justice and the Constitution. I look forward to working with my colleagues to review President Biden’s nominee to our highest court.”

Because he is not on the Judiciary Committee, Murphy would vote later, when the full Senate decides on a nomination.

Matt Dwyer is an editor, reporter and midday host for Connecticut Public's news department. He produces local news during All Things Considered.

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