‘It Makes No Sense’: Democrats Reject Calls For Sonia Sotomayor To Retire Early

"I think Justice Sotomayor is doing a terrific job, and I think she’ll be doing a terrific job for years to come,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

WASHINGTON – Senate Democrats dismissed calls for Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor to step down in order to ensure President Joe Biden has the chance to name her successor while his party controls the Senate this year.

“I don’t think there’s anything I know about her medical condition that would disqualify her from continuing. I don’t see any reason why she wouldn’t” keep serving, said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“It makes no sense to me. I think Justice Sotomayor is doing a terrific job, and I think she’ll be doing a terrific job for years to come,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) added in an interview with HuffPost.

Some progressives and political commentators, including Nate Silver and Josh Barro, have argued that Sotomayor, who at 69 is the oldest of three Democratic-appointed justices, should retire to avoid a repeat of what happened with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The late justice resisted calls to step down while Democrats held the Senate in 2014 under President Barack Obama, and her death in 2020 at age 87 from cancer allowed Republicans to appoint a 6-3 conservative majority on the court that repealed federal abortion rights, with more major GOP legal victories on the horizon.

Sotomayor’s only publicly known health condition is Type 1 diabetes, which isn’t life threatening if treated properly. Still, some on the left fear that it could take years until Democrats get another opportunity to fill a seat on the court. Biden’s shaky political standing versus presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and the brutal map for Senate Democrats this cycle are compounding those worries.

“Yes, Sotomayor should retire. Not a remotely close call if you want to avoid a 7-2 conservative majority,” Silver, the founder of the website FiveThirtyEight, wrote in a post on X (formerly Twitter).

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, caused a stir last week when he suggested to NBC News that Sotomayor should consider the timing of any career decision and that Democrats “should learn a lesson” about the high stakes involving Supreme Court appointments.

That didn’t sit well with some members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which rushed to defend the nation’s first Latina justice.

“Justice Sotomayor has been a trailblazer for the Latino community and has every right to serve on the Supreme Court until she makes the decision that it is best for her to retire,” Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.) said in a post on X.

Asked about the reaction to his comments, Blumenthal told HuffPost that he never called for Sotomayor to retire.

“Justice Sotomayor should make her own decisions,” he said. “It should be completely up to her what she does. I’m not saying she should resign.”

The circumstances surrounding Sotomayor are different from that of Ginsburg. As The New Republic’s Matt Ford noted, when Ginsburg faced calls to retire in 2014, she was 81 years old and had already gone through two bouts with cancer, including pancreatic cancer. Sotomayor, who will turn 70 this summer, has had no major health episodes, unlike Chief Justice John Roberts or Justice Clarence Thomas, both of whom recently were hospitalized.

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), another member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that “a much fairer way” to address the issue would be to pass legislation establishing term limits for Supreme Court justices.

“Our Supreme Court justices have lifetime appointments. If we don’t like that, we should have a bill,” Hirono told HuffPost, pointing to legislation she helped introduce in 2022.

When asked about concerns regarding Sotomayor’s history with diabetes, Hirono said, “So what?”

“If they don’t like it, we should change the law,” she added. “We shouldn’t be forcing people to retire. In fact, I can think of some other people here who should retire.”

Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.), who faced calls to drop out of his race for Senate in 2022 after he suffered a stroke, also said he didn’t have concerns with Sotomayor’s ability to serve.

“I have no opinion on anyone else’s ability to retire unless it’s that sleaze-ball Menendez. He should resign,” Fetterman said, referring to Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), who has been indicted by the Justice Department for allegedly accepting bribes and for obstruction of justice.

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