Influential senator nudges Sotomayor to retire

 April 5, 2024

Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal (Ct.) nudged liberal Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor to retire, as speculation over her health escalates ahead of a high-stakes election.

Democrats are haunted by Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death in 2020, which enabled President Trump to move the court to the right. If Sotomayor retires now, President Biden could guarantee that a liberal justice replaces her.

Senator nudges Sotomayor

Gently prodding the elephant in the room, Blumenthal told NBC that Sotomayor should give retirement some thought as Democrats fret the consequences of losing power in November.

“I’m very respectful of Justice Sotomayor. I have great admiration for her. But I think she really has to weigh the competing factors,” Blumenthal said.

“We should learn a lesson. And it’s not like there’s any mystery here about what the lesson should be. The old saying — graveyards are full of indispensable people, ourselves in this body included.”

Blumenthal couched his patronizing comment with praise for the "highly accomplished" judge and added as a caveat that she is having no problems "right now."

Speaking with the heart of a true partisan, Blumenthal said Sotomayor must do her part to ensure the court "looks and thinks like America."

“Justices have to make their personal decisions about their health and their level of energy, but also to keep in mind the larger national and public interest in making sure that the court looks and thinks like America,” Blumenthal said.

Broaching the subject

The presidential election is widely considered a tossup, and Democrats face a tough challenge holding onto their slim majority in the Senate, which has the power to confirm Supreme Court nominees.

While younger than some of her colleagues on the bench, 69-year-old Sotomayor is diabetic, and she has complained about the demands of her rigorous job.

“And to be almost 70 years old, this wasn’t what I expected,” she said at an event earlier this year.

Blumenthal's comments are notable, given his seniority and position on the Senate Judiciary Committee. It's safe to say that he is far from the only Democrat with these concerns.

But the White House said that Biden "believes that decisions to retire from the Supreme Court should be made by the justices themselves and no one else.”

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