Chuck Grassley has a message for Ruth Bader Ginsburg: If you’re planning on retiring this year, please do so now — otherwise, there’s a chance that Mitch McConnell will not be able to replace you with a right-wing justice who rejects core principles of your jurisprudence.
“I just hope that if there is going to be a nominee, I hope it’s now or within two or three weeks, because we’ve got to get this done before the election,” the Republican Senate Judiciary chair told radio host Hugh Hewitt Thursday morning. “So my message to any one of the nine Supreme Court justices, if you’re thinking about quitting this year, do it yesterday.”
All right: Technically, Grassley directed his advice to all of the high court’s incumbents. But his counsel only makes marginally more sense when directed at Anthony Kennedy, the right-leaning justice who has (supposedly) been contemplating retirement for a while now. Ostensibly, Grassley is warning that there’s a chance Democrats could take back the Senate next year, and then refuse to fill any Supreme Court vacancy that arises, as revenge for Merrick Garland. Thus, if Kennedy wants to retire without leaving behind a court deadlocked 4-4 between right- and left-leaning justices, he should pack his bags now. After all, it takes upward of 50 days for the Senate to process a Supreme Court nomination, and the legislative calendar has far fewer days in it than a normal one.
But given Kennedy’s libertarian streak, it seems less than certain that he is eager to have his shoes filled by the authoritarian demagogue presently ensconced in the Oval Office. Anyhow, Republicans remain highly likely to retain the Senate. And even if they don’t, it’s far from certain that a Democratic caucus filled with moderate red staters — and liberal norm-worshippers — would have the backbone to keep a Supreme Court seat empty.