The Supreme Court session has ended, but Justice Stephen Breyer still doesn't know when he'll retire. The top liberal justice who will turn 83 in August tells CNN that he has yet to make a decision but acknowledges two issues are on his mind: "Primarily, of course, health. Second, the court." There's been intense pressure on Breyer to retire, allowing a younger liberal to take his place, while Democrats hold a slim Senate majority, as Sen. Mitch McConnell has said that, if he again becomes Senate majority leader, he will likely block any of President Biden's Supreme Court nominations in 2023 and 2024. But Breyer, who's served on the court for 27 years, seems to relish his new role as ranking liberal justice following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who joined the court a year before him.
For some, Ginsburg's death, ushering in a 6-3 conservative majority, exposed her error in not leaving the bench voluntarily while President Obama enjoyed a Democratic Senate, per the Washington Post. But for Breyer, it brought seniority that "has made a difference to me," he tells CNN's Joan Biskupic from rural New Hampshire, where he spends the summer. Breyer is now third to speak when the justices get together to discuss a case, following conservatives Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Clarence Thomas, which gives him "a shot at influencing a case and any cross-ideological consensus," per CNN. And in decisions with a 6-3 conservative majority, it is Breyer who assigns which liberal justice writes the dissenting opinion. Of the court's internal discussions, Breyer notes, "It is not a fight. It is not sarcasm. It is deliberation." (Read more Stephen Breyer stories.)