Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer to retire

Breyer to step down at the end of the current Supreme Court term early this summer

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Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer is retiring, Fox News confirmed, setting President Biden up with the first opportunity to fill a vacancy on the high court. 

A source close to Breyer told Fox News that the justice will step down at the end of the current Supreme Court term early this summer. 

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Associate Justice Stephen Breyer poses during a group photo of the justices at the Supreme Court in Washington, April 23, 2021.

Associate Justice Stephen Breyer poses during a group photo of the justices at the Supreme Court in Washington, April 23, 2021. (Erin Schaff/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo)

Breyer, who is 83, has been the subject of rampant speculation about his retirement. Liberal activists were calling for the justice to retire soon after Biden was inaugurated. Sources close to Breyer, however, said the justice made the decision on his own terms and was not forced out. 

Breyer was appointed by former President Bill Clinton, a Democrat. Breyer's replacement will need to be confirmed by the Senate, which is currently split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, with Democrats technically holding the majority because Vice President Harris can break ties. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Wednesday Breyer's replacement will be "confirmed by the full United States Senate with all deliberate speed." 

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday that the White House won't be commenting, at least for now, about Breyer stepping down. 

A police officer patrols in front of of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington on Oct. 12, 2021.

A police officer patrols in front of of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington on Oct. 12, 2021. (Emily Elconin/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

"It has always been the decision of any Supreme Court Justice if and when they decide to retire, and how they want to announce it, and that remains the case today. We have no additional details or information to share from @WhiteHouse," she tweeted. 

During his campaign, Biden promised that he would nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court. One potential option is D.C. Circuit Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson – a progressive favorite who Biden nominated last year. 

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., was among the first voices after the news that Breyer is stepping down to call for a Black woman to be his replacement. 

A photo of the nine sitting Supreme Court justices on April 23, 2021. Seated from left, Justices Samuel A. Alito, Jr. and Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., and Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor. Standing from left, Justices Brett M. Kavanaugh, Elena Kagan, Neil M. Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett.

A photo of the nine sitting Supreme Court justices on April 23, 2021. Seated from left, Justices Samuel A. Alito, Jr. and Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., and Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor. Standing from left, Justices Brett M. Kavanaugh, Elena Kagan, Neil M. Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett. (Fred Schilling, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States)

"In the wake of Justice Breyer’s retirement, I want to voice my support for President Biden in his pledge to nominate the first Black woman to the Supreme Court. The Court should reflect the diversity of our country, and it is unacceptable that we have never in our nation’s history had a Black woman sit on the Supreme Court of the United States," she said. 

Republican activists, meanwhile, already appear to be gearing up to oppose Biden's eventual pick. 

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"The Left bullied Justice Breyer into retirement and now it will demand a justice who rubber stamps its liberal political agenda," Judicial Crisis Network President Carrie Severino tweeted. "And that’s what the Democrats will give them, because they’re beholden to the dark money supporters who helped elect them."

Fox News' James Levinson and Caroline McKee contributed to this report.