Schumer: Democrats 'ready to expeditiously fill' any Supreme Court vacancy

Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck Schumer'The Squad' celebrates Biden eviction moratorium Overnight Health Care: Florida becomes epicenter of COVID-19 surge | NYC to require vaccination for indoor activities | Biden rebukes GOP governors for barring mask mandates National Organization for Women calls for Cuomo resignation MORE (D-N.Y.) said on Friday that Democrats are ready to fill a Supreme Court seat if one becomes vacant, amid progressive pressure for Justice Stephen BreyerStephen BreyerSenate panel votes to make women register for draft Biden's belated filibuster decision: A pretense of principle at work Klobuchar: If Breyer is going to retire from Supreme Court, it should be sooner rather than later MORE to retire. 

Schumer, in a "Dear Colleague" letter released on Friday, didn't mention Breyer by name, though his mention of a potential Supreme Court vacancy was seen by some as a subtle nudge toward the 82-year-old liberal justice.

"Alongside these crucial legislative priorities, the Senate will continue to confirm more of President BidenJoe BidenFive takeaways from the Ohio special primaries FDA aims to give full approval to Pfizer vaccine by Labor Day: report Overnight Defense: Police officer killed in violence outside Pentagon | Biden officials back repeal of Iraq War authorization | NSC pushed to oversee 'Havana Syndrome' response MORE’s highly qualified judicial nominees. ... We will continue this critical work in the months to come. As always, Senate Democrats stand ready to expeditiously fill any potential vacancies on the Supreme Court should they arise," Schumer wrote in the letter.  

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There is not currently a vacancy on the Supreme Court, which wrapped up its 2020-2021 term earlier this month. But progressive outside groups, and some House lawmakers, have waged a months-long pressure campaign to try to get Breyer to retire in order to ensure that the vacancy occurs while Democrats still control the Senate. 

Breyer has given no public indication of his plans but that has done little to stop the growing churn of speculation in Washington and among court watchers as the Supreme Court neared the end of its previous term. 

Former Justice Anthony Kennedy, the last justice to retire from the court, announced his plans at the end of June.

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If Breyer retired that wouldn't change the 6-3 conservative majority of the Supreme Court. But it would allow Biden to fill the seat with someone younger and potentially add more diversity to the nation's highest court. 

Senate Democrats — including Schumer's No. 2 and Judiciary Committee chairman, Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinMcConnell warns Schumer cutting off debate quickly could stall infrastructure deal Congress should butt out of Supreme Court's business Inmates grapple with uncertainty over Biden prison plan MORE (D-Ill.) — have largely declined to weigh in on whether Breyer should step down. 

If Breyer does retire it would likely upend Senate Democrats' schedule for the rest of the year, just as they are planning to ramp up work on a two-track infrastructure plan. 

Schumer, in his letter, reiterated that he wants to pass both a bipartisan infrastructure bill and a budget resolution that sets up a larger, multitrillion-dollar, Democratic-only bill during the upcoming Senate work period that starts on Monday. 

And he's already sending warning signs that the current to-do list, without factoring in a potential Supreme Court fight, could keep the chamber in Washington through part of the August recess.  

"Please be advised that time is of the essence and we have a lot of work to do. Senators should be prepared for the possibility of working long nights, weekends, and remaining in Washington into the previously-scheduled August state work period," he wrote

CORRECTION: Kennedy announced he was retiring from the Supreme Court on June 27, 2018. An earlier version of this misstated the timing.