- Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg just spent 72 hours in the hospital after surgery for lung cancer.
- President Donald Trump reportedly has said he thinks he can remake nearly half of the nation’s highest court in his image with four separate appointments.
- Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush made only two appointments each over eight years in office.
- If Trump replaced a liberal justice with a conservative, he could change the court’s makeup for decades.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg has reportedly returned to work after a recent hospital stint for lung cancer surgery sidelined her for 72 hours, but the 85-year-old’s health has raised speculation that President Donald Trump may get another chance to reshape the court.
Trump reportedly has suggested he hopes to remake nearly half of the US’s highest court in his image by making four separate appointments during his first term – and so far, that would already be half right.
Upon taking office, Trump quickly filled the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia with Neil Gorsuch, a conservative who has already played a key role.
In July, Justice Anthony Kennedy announced that he would retire.
Trump has now secured two Supreme Court picks in the first half of his first term. Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush appointed two justices each during their eight years in office.
Supreme Court justices, who serve for life after a presidential appointment and Senate confirmation, represent one of the longer-lasting marks a president can leave on the country, as the justices often serve for decades.
But Trump reportedly thinks he can get an additional two justices in.
In October, the news website Axios cited an anonymous source detailing private predictions by Trump that Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor would retire during his term.
“What does she weigh? 60 pounds?” Trump asked of the now-85-year-old Ginsburg, a source told Axios. The same report indicated Trump said Sotomayor, over 20 years younger than Ginsburg, was also in trouble because of “her health.”
“No good. Diabetes,” Trump reportedly said.
Sotomayor had a health scare in January with paramedics treating her for low blood sugar, but she quickly returned to work. Sotomayor says she’s vigilant about her Type 1 diabetes, which she’s had since childhood.
During the 2016 campaign, Trump often said he or his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, could end up appointing five justices.
Democrats stand to lose it all
So far, Trump has had the chance only to replace judges appointed by Republican presidents, and he is sure to nominate a conservative-leaning judge to replace Kennedy.
The nine-justice court already leans conservative, but Kennedy, chosen by President Ronald Reagan, has been viewed as a swing vote during his tenure, supporting same-sex marriage and upholding a woman’s right to abortion.
Ginsburg and Sotomayor are liberal justices, so replacing both Kennedy and either of them with conservatives could change the court’s makeup for decades, possibly reversing decisions like Roe v. Wade.
Supreme Court nominees need at least 51 Senate votes to win confirmation, and Republicans hold a 51-49 majority. For Democrats, this makes their bid to take control of the Senate in November’s elections all the more vital.
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