President Joe Biden had hoped that Justice Stephen Breyer would retire soon. But as he and his advisers waited for the most senior member of the Supreme Court’s liberal wing to make up his mind, the president had made it clear: No one was to do anything to pressure him.

Part of the reason, three advisers to Biden said, was because the president, who was chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1994 when Breyer was confirmed, had respect for the man. Part of it was because he had respect for the role. And part of it was that he knew liberal groups were already applying plenty of pressure — any more could backfire.

The installation of a Supreme Court justice often requires deft maneuvering from a president, but Biden’s first opportunity to nominate a replacement came as many liberals were still in shock at how Republicans had managed to quickly confirm a conservative to the court in 2020 after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who had refused to retire when President Barack Obama could have appointed her successor.