The White House is reportedly engaging in low-key planning in the eventuality President Donald Trump will have to replace Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The 85-year-old missed oral arguments for the first time in her 25 years on the high court as she recovers from early-stage lung cancer surgery, the Associated Press reported.
Ginsburg is also expected to miss next week’s oral arguments before the court goes into a month-long recess.
Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg told reporters that Ginsburg will continue to work from home and participate in the consideration and decision of cases, based on briefs and transcripts from the oral arguments she missed.
Arberg reiterated last month’s announcement, “Post-surgery evaluation indicates no evidence of remaining disease, and no further treatment is required.”
According to Fox News, sources confirmed that “the White House has quietly reached out to a small number of GOP lawmakers and conservative legal advocates, reassuring them it would be ready for any court vacancy. Under new White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, a ready list of top-tier candidates is being updated.”
Fox noted a similar “low-key, heads-up” from the White House happened when rumors of former Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy began to circulate in 2017 and 2018. He retired last June.
Ginsburg has fully recovered from two bouts of cancer in the past, most recently in 2009, when she underwent surgery for early-stage pancreatic cancer.
Two doctors contacted by Fox News said six-to-eight weeks is a normal recovery time for the lobectomies performed on her lungs in late December of last year.
The news outlet further pointed out Ginsburg’s absence from the court for health reasons is not unprecedented.
In October 2004, then Chief Justice William Rehnquist was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and missed 44 public arguments, but continued working from his chambers and from home. He passed away less than a year later shortly before his 81st birthday, while still a sitting justice.
Last summer, Ginsburg signaled that she is looking to remain on the bench for at least another five years.
“I’m now 85,” the liberal icon said. “My senior colleague, Justice John Paul Stevens, he stepped down when he was 90, so think I have about at least five more years.”
Ginsburg is already five years past the average retirement age of the last 11 justices.
The court’s oldest justice made the unusual move of taking sides in the 2016 presidential race with very public and negative statements to the press about then-candidate Donald Trump, calling him among other things a “faker.”
Court watchers, like Jonathan Turley, believe that Ginsburg fully expected Hillary Clinton to appoint her replacement, and resisted calls to retire during Barack Obama’s terms. Now she faces the possibility that a conservative justice may well replace her on the court, appointed by Trump.
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