Republican Leader To Aging Supreme Court Justices: Hurry Up And Retire Before Midterms

Written by Dana Sanchez

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley told conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt that he hopes if any Supreme Court justice is close to announcing a retirement, it happens soon.

The Republican-controlled Senate, which has the power to confirm or reject a president’s nominee, is already looking ahead to the busy midterm elections, where Democrats could win, Grassley said, according to CNN.

“So my message to any one of the nine Supreme Court justices,” Grassley said: “If you’re thinking about quitting this year, do it yesterday.”

Hewitt, who comments on politics and media bias on MSNBC and CNN, was recently criticized by MSNBC for lobbying EPA head Scott Pruitt to clean up a polluted site near Hewitt’s home in California.

Grassley apparently felt comfortable talking to Hewitt about the Supreme Court retirements — an issue that has infuriated Democrats in the past.

After Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016, then-President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to fill Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court. This was an unusual situation — a Democratic president had the opportunity to appoint a Supreme Court nominee while the Republicans controlled the U.S. Senate. Republican Senate leaders refused to hold a vote on any potential nomination during Obama’s last year in office. The nomination remained before the Senate for 293 days — the longest in the history of Supreme Court nominations. President Donald Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch in 2017.

Anthony Kennedy’s name is at the top of the list when conversations and speculation turn to the question of potential Supreme Court retirements, OutsideTheBeltway reported:

“Grassley infuriated Democrats in 2016 by refusing to take up Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court. Now they’re growing even madder at the Senate Judiciary chairman for advising any high court justice contemplating retirement to get on with it.”

In the future when Republicans lose the Senate, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) warned,  “There will be a price to pay.”

The average age on the nine-member Supreme Court is 69.  Justices are appointed for life and often serve well beyond normal retirement years.

The justices “tend to pick themselves up from health episodes and keep going”, CNN reported. The oldest, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, survived colorectal cancer in 1999 and pancreatic cancer in 2009. In 2013 she fell at her Washington, D.C. home and she cracked her ribs in an earlier fall.

After the Grassley-Hewitt interview, Grassley later told reporters that he’s not telling Kennedy to retire, OutsideTheBeltway reported:

“I’m suggesting to them that if they’re the type of people that want Trump to replace them … that they ought to think about retiring yesterday,” Grassley told reporters. “Elections have consequences. We could end up without having a Republican Senate.”

Supreme Court justices
Image: Chuck Grassley Twitter