Liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Explains Why She Won’t Retire

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg hugs President Barack Obama before the president's State of the Union speech on February 12, 2013 Jason Reed/Reuters

For the last year, liberals have called on Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to step down from the high court so that President Obama can appoint her successor, fearing that if a Republican becomes president in January 2017, Ginsburg’s seat will go to a conservative and the already conservative court will move further to the right.

But in a rare interview with Elle magazine, the liberal-leaning justice and women's rights icon said she’s not going anywhere. And she explained why.

It comes down to the Senate, Ginsburg told Elle’s Jessica Weisberg.

Who do you think President Obama could appoint at this very day, given the boundaries that we have? If I resign any time this year, he could not successfully appoint anyone I would like to see in the court. [The Senate Republicans] took off the filibuster for lower federal court appointments, but it remains for this court. So anybody who thinks that if I step down, Obama could appoint someone like me, they’re misguided. As long as I can do the job full steam…. I think I’ll recognize when the time comes that I can’t any longer. But now I can.

Ginsburg’s point is that even though Democrats control the White House and the Senate, Republicans can still block a nominee to the Supreme Court that they feel is too liberal. As she reminds those calling for her to step down, when Senate Democrats reformed the filibuster rules last year so that they could confirm judicial appointments with a simple majority vote, they made an exception for Supreme Court nominees, who would still need a 60-vote majority to break a filibuster.

Appointed to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton in 1993, the Senate voted to confirm Ginsburg by a vote of 96-3. In 2011, Ginsburg expressed concern Republicans would not support her if she were nominated today, thanks to her pioneering work on women’s rights for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). "Today, my ACLU connection would probably disqualify me," she said.

Elle released a preview of the Ginsburg interview on Tuesday. The full interview is in the magazine’s October issue.