Leaving soon? Ailing Ginsburg has repeatedly promised to work only at 'full steam'

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has repeatedly said she will retire when she is no longer able to work “full steam” — a promise that could be put to the test this week — or soon after — with the 85-year-old justice sitting out oral arguments while recovering from cancer surgery.

Ginsburg’s absence for the past three days and recent health issues have fueled speculation about her future on the high court. If Ginsburg steps down as one of the four liberal justices currently serving, President Trump will almost certainly appoint a conservative replacement, tilting the court further to the Right.

If Ginsburg is serious about her repeated vow to step down if she is not fully robust, liberals could be facing a crisis in the judiciary sooner than they think. Widely viewed as tenaciously willing to hang on with a Republican in the presidency, Ginsburg's own affirmations suggest she may view competency to conduct the court's business as a matter that rivals the court's ideological makeup in importance.

Although Ginsburg said last summer that she hopes to serve until she is 90, she has been consistent about when it will be time for her to hang up the robe: "I said I will do this job as long as I can do it full steam,” she said on Dec. 17 at the New York City premier of “On the Basis of Sex,” a movie based on her early career. Five days later, Ginsburg underwent surgery to remove early-stage cancerous nodules and was hospitalized for several days.

Last February, Ginsburg used the same phrase during an event at the Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, D.C. “As long as I can do the job full steam, I will be here,” she said.
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