Justice Stephen Breyer Warns Democrats About Supreme Court Changes, Says GOP Can Do it too

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer has a warning for liberals who wish to remake the bench.

"What goes around comes around," Breyer told NPR in an interview published Friday. "And if the Democrats can do it, the Republicans can do it."

An ideological battle over the future of the court has been intensifying since former President Donald Trump appointed three justices in his four years in the White House—giving the bench a 6 to 3 conservative majority.

Earlier this year, a group of congressional Democrats introduced a bill to expand the Supreme Court from nine to 13 justices. The last time the high court changed in size was more than 150 years ago.

Lawmakers backing the legislation argued the adjustment was needed after Republicans blocked former President Barack Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland in 2016 and pushed through Justice Amy Coney Barrett's appointment just days before the 2020 election.

"Republicans stole the court's majority, with Justice Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation completing their crime spree," Senator Edward Markey, a sponsor of the bill, said in a statement at the time.

Calls for a change in the court's makeup have grown following its controversial ruling allowing a Texas abortion ban to take effect.

Senator Tina Smith wrote on Twitter following the decision that if Democrats expand their majorities in the 2022 election, they should use the power to eliminate the filibuster and grow the court.

"Republicans stole two Supreme Court seats and as demonstrated by this decision, much of the current Court is dangerously unmoored from any reasonable principles of legal analysis," Smith tweeted.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has also been leading the call to make changes to the court.

"Democrats can either abolish the filibuster and expand the court, or do nothing as millions of peoples' bodies, rights, and lives are sacrificed for far-right minority rule. This shouldn't be a difficult decision," the New York Democrat wrote on Twitter.

Justice Breyer Warns Democrats About SCOTUS Changes
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer issued a warning about potential changes to the bench. In this photo, Breyer sits during a group photo of the Justices at the Supreme Court in Washington, DC on April 23, 2021. Erin Schaff/Pool/Getty Images

Breyer also addressed the public push for him to retire while Democrats hold the White House, House of Representatives and Senate.

The so-called "Breyer Retire" effort was launched by the progressive group Demand Justice earlier this year to push the 82-year-old justice to step down so that President Joe Biden can appoint the first Black woman to the court.

"I'm only going to say that I'm not going to go beyond what I previously said on the subject, and that is that I do not believe I should stay on the Supreme Court, or want to stay on the Supreme Court, until I die," he told NPR. "And when exactly I should retire, or will retire, has many complex parts to it. I think I'm aware of most of them, and I am, and will consider them."

Newsweek reached out to Demand Justice for a reaction to Breyer's comments, but didn't receive a response before publication.