Democrats rejoiced last summer when iconic progressive Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg announced that she planned on serving “at least five more years” on the Supreme Court. However, Ginsburg’s hyper-motivated fanbase — who often refer to her as the Notorious RBG — probably weren’t counting on their heroine holding court from the comfort of her own home.
The 85-year-old has been bedridden since undergoing a Dec. 24 surgery to have cancerous growths removed from her left lung, missing two weeks of oral arguments this month in an extended leave-of-absence. Now, however, Democrats are holding their breaths after Ginsburg canceled a pair of public appearances stretching into early February, dashing hopes that the Supreme Court justice would be returning to the bench following a typical recovery period.
Three more weeks of recovery
Ginsburg will miss a scheduled appearance at the Los Angeles’ Skirball Cultural Center on Jan. 29. In addition, the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan released a public statement announcing that financier David Rubenstein would no longer be interviewing Ginsburg in front of an audience on Feb. 6, as scheduled.
“Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg regrets that she is unable to attend the talk with David Rubenstein at 92Y on February 6,” 92nd Street Y told The Hill in an email. “She is curtailing travel and focusing on her work while recuperating from recent surgery.”
A “proudly Jewish organization” that claims to welcome “people of all backgrounds and perspectives,” 92nd Street Y has been accused of furthering the antisemitic “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” movement opposed to Israel, and its moderators and audiences have been hostile to guests who harbor pro-Israel opinions. Rubenstein was supposed to ask Ginsburg about her feelings on the #MeToo movement, as well as the role of the Supreme Court during “a moment of huge political tumult” in the U.S.
Ginsburg’s canceled appearance at 92Y was set for nearly three weeks from now, raising serious questions about her recovery and the duration of her continued absence. However, top cancer surgeons have dismissed fears that Ginsburg’s absence from the high court point to a more serious condition, assuring her supporters that the judge would be back on the bench after six weeks of rest.
“I think a lot of people are getting scared because they are concerned about the balance of the court, but I’m confident she’s not going anywhere. She’s going to be back on the court,” Raja Flores, the chief of the division of thoracic surgery at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, told CNBC earlier this month.
In the nick of time
But while Ginsburg could still be recovering during the first week of February, she may not miss any more oral arguments. The Supreme Court is not in session again until Tuesday, Feb. 19, when the justices will hear arguments in a case involving the Department of Commerce and the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
The court is also expected to decide whether it will review a number of potentially landmark cases in the coming weeks, including lawsuits involving the president’s immigration powers and the rights of employers to discriminate against LGBT staff.
Ginsburg may help determine the suitability of those cases from home.
When Ginsburg missed a court session on Jan. 8, it represented the first time in her 25-year career that the progressive judge missed hearing oral arguments. She has a reputation for being “tough as nails” despite her age, regularly subjecting herself to a punishing workout routine and bouncing back from past health scares without missing a day of work.
By canceling her upcoming speaking engagement, Ginsburg has extended her recovery period by a number of weeks. As long as she remains at home, the veteran justice’s health will likely continue to be a popular talking point on Capitol Hill.