Breaking with his colleagues, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer declined to comment on an ongoing vacancy on the bench occasioned by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, but took issue with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s characterization of his position on the issue.
In an interview with NPR’s Nina Totenberg at The George Washington University sponsored by Smithsonian Associates, Breyer declined to comment on Republican threats to indefinitely block Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s judicial nominees, should she prevail in the November election. Breyer said he hoped to stay “as far away from anything that’s politically controversial as possible.”
Breyer’s comments break from his colleagues Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, who have stated previously they hoped to be joined by a ninth colleague soon.
However, the justice took issue with Cruz’s characterization of his position.
“You know, I think there will be plenty of time for debate on that issue,” Cruz told reporters, according to The Washington Post’s Dave Weigel. “There is certainly long historical precedent for a Supreme Court with fewer justices. I would note, just recently, that Justice Breyer observed that the vacancy is not impacting the ability of the court to do its job. That’s a debate that we are going to have.” (RELATED: Cruz Piles On: We’ll Block SCOTUS Nominees Indefinitely)
“I didn’t say that,” Breyer said of Cruz’s remarks, but did not elaborate in great detail. Generally speaking, Supreme Court justices are circumspect as regards to their personal views of ongoing legal or political controversies, preferring to remain assiduously neutral.
Cruz’s remarks, which echo those made by Arizona Sen. John McCain, prompted outgoing Democratic Leader Sen. Harry Reid to tell Talking Points Memo that Senate Democrats should change the body’s rules governing Supreme Court nominations, should they seize control of the chamber in the November election.
(Editor’s note: This post has been updated.)
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