Legislative Analysis

Boon or Bust? What Breyer’s Retirement Means for Biden, BBB, and Things That Don’t Start with B (like USICA).

January 28, 2022

Congress returns on Monday and it’s no secret that lawmakers are itching to make progress on, well, a lot. BBB. USICA. Appropriations. ECA. Covid. Telehealth. Sequester. The legislative pipeline is already packed full and yet this week we added the heavy load of confirming a Supreme Court nominee. Oof. We’ve heard of the ‘Sunday Scaries’ but can there also be ‘Friday Scaries’!?!? Much like this weekend’s winter storm warning, we will get through it together and here’s our look on what the retirement of Justice Breyer means (and doesn’t mean) for the Biden administration and so much more.

No Doubt, Breyer’s Retirement Throws a Lifeline to President Biden…

Justice Breyer’s retirement offers a welcome change of narrative for Biden after a week of lackluster headlines marking the one-year anniversary his presidency. SCOTUS matters, and Biden’s chance to nominate a new Justice is an easy win for the President and his party. After a year of well-documented infighting between Democrats’ moderate and progressive wings, Dems have a chance to show the country they are united on a high-profile issue. By nominating a Black woman, Biden also has an opportunity to deliver a key promise that will surely be welcomed by black voters, who were no doubt instrumental in securing his presidency and will be essential for Democrats during this year’s midterm elections.

…But What Does it Mean for Critical Legislation…

Ultimately, we are not convinced the impending SCOTUS battle means much (if anything?) for the fate of a single legislative item. BBB will proceed, or not, whenever Sen. Manchin decides he wants to pass a bill. USICA/COMPETES will still be muscled through the House next week, before bogging down in process (to formal conference or not to formal conference?), and the appropriations process is…well…proceeding with plenty of time to avert a shutdown and likely come to conclusion sometime in March. While SCOTUS will be the topic du jour (and thus take some pressure off BBB and the like), it ultimately does not command much floor time and other topics will succeed or fail based upon their own weight. Like a stun grenade, the SCOTUS announcement was a disorienting flash, but just a temporary one.

…At the Same Time, There’s Still Plenty of Time for Both Parties to Find Themselves in Deep Water.

With Democrats in control of the Senate and no chance for a filibuster, President Biden’s ultimate nominee should, in theory, sail through the process with relative ease. However, when it comes to politics, and a 50-50 evenly divided Senate, you can never be too sure (think President Bush’s 2005 nomination of Harriet Miers). And even the most vetted nominee could have skeletons in their closet. At the same time, it remains to be seen whether Republican criticism of Biden’s eventual nominee will resonate with voters, fall flat, or even land the party in hot water. However, if previous nomination battles are any indication, we give the political edge to Republicans where the Supreme Court is a tried, tested and true base booster.

That’s all for now. We hope this helped to ease some of those ‘scaries’. TGIF!