'Deeply flawed': Legal experts warn of potential for McConnell obstruction over Breyer's SCOTUS seat

'Deeply flawed': Legal experts warn of potential for McConnell obstruction over Breyer's SCOTUS seat
U.S. Embassy in Germany / Wikimedia Commons

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer sparked a media firestorm when he announced his retirement on Wednesday, January 26. Now, legal experts and Twitter users are sharing their reactions to the judicial shake-up, and expressing concern about the tactics Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) could employ to block Democratic lawmakers from appointing a replacement for Breyer.

Over the last decade, McConnell and Republican lawmakers have adamantly refused to vote on Supreme Court justice nominees from Democratic presidents but wasted no time expediting appointments of judicial nominations from Republican presidents.

Although Biden has more than two years left in his first term, Twitter users believe history will repeat itself if Senate Democrats are not proactive in moving forward with a new Supreme Court nomination.

Legal experts were quick to weigh in with their reactions. In a series of tweets, former federal prosecutor Shannon Wu weighed in to assess the latest developments citing the pros and cons of Breyer's retirement.

"SCOTUS Justice Stephen Breyer's retirement gives President Biden & Democrats first chance in TWELVE years to fill Supreme Court seat even though Democrats have held the Presidency for majority of that time - what's wrong with this picture?" Wu tweeted with the hashtag #ExpandTheCourt as he suggested that judges' terms be limited.

He added, "Watch for 'cult of personality' chatter about potential nominees to replace Justice Breyer. That is what is WRONG with SCOTUS they are a Super Legislature that wields way too much power. No disrespect for whichever woman of color is selected! But SCOTUS structure is deeply flawed."

Other legal experts also weighed in on the possible impact of Breyer's retirement. Marc Elias, an attorney and founder of the Democracy Docket, tweeted, "Justice Breyer is retiring from the Supreme Court. We need a strong, pro-democracy pick to protect and expand voting rights and free and fair elections."

"A Biden appointee would not change the court's ideological balance, but would enable him to refresh its liberal wing with a much younger jurist in the lifetime post," Jan Wolfe also tweeted.

Others also expressed concerns about the actions McConnell could take to stall a Democratic nominee. One user tweeted, "#SCOTUS Justice Breyer announces retirement, giving McConnell only a brief and quaint 3 years to block Biden's nomination and refuse to fill the seat."

Another chimed in tweeting, "McConnell will invent something maybe called the 50/50 rule to say that an evenly split Senate cannot vote on a SCOTUS nominee if the retirement was leaked on a Wednesday in January during an election year. Some s**t like that."

While a new Supreme Court nominee is all but certain to spark a political battle between Democrats and Republicans, an op-ed written by The Washington Post's Neal Katyal, notes one of the strongest qualities about the retiring justice.

In a world of social media gurus and experts, Breyer had the ability to understand the importance of listening and taking the professional expertise and opinion of others into consideration.

"America stands at a crossroads," Katyal noted. "On one path is more toxic extremism, the culmination of which we witnessed on Jan. 6. Despite that armed insurrection, the path remains just as seductive as ever to many."

He concluded, "The other path is quieter and more difficult to practice. It is a path forged by Breyer: respect for others, reverence for the law, and most of all, a commitment to listening to and learning from one another."

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