Ruth Bader Ginsburg reveals that a senator expressed 'great glee' when she got cancer
With the U.S. Supreme Court having moved even further to the right under President Donald Trump, admirers of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — an 86-year-old survivor of lung cancer and pancreatic cancer — have been hoping and praying that her health continues to hold up. But Ginsburg, during an interview with National Public Radio (NPR) this week, stressed that she “is very much alive” and still has work to do on the High Court.
During the interview, Ginsburg told NPR, “There was a senator — I think it was after my pancreatic cancer — who announced with great glee that I was going to be dead within six months. That senator, whose name I have forgotten, is now himself dead — and I am very much alive.”
Ginsburg stressed that during her cancer treatment, the demands of serving on the Supreme Court were an inspiration.
“The work is really what saved me, because I had to concentrate on reading the briefs, doing a draft of an opinion — and I knew it had to get done,” Ginsburg explained. “So, I had to get past whatever my aches and pains were just to do the job.”
Ginsburg also expressed skepticism about some ideas Democrats have had for dealing with the Supreme Court’s hard-right direction under Trump. One of those proposals is court-packing, which refers to increasing the number of justices on a judicial body. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt wanted to pack the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1930s after growing frustrated with justices he felt were undermining his New Deal, but FDR encountered vehement opposition and ultimately gave up on that idea.
“Nine seems to be a good number,” Ginsburg asserted during the NPR interview. “It’s been that way for a long time. I think it was a bad idea when President Franklin Roosevelt tried to pack the Court.”
Another idea some Democrats have proposed is term limits for Supreme Court justices. Such limits exist in other democratic republics; in Uruguay, for example, supreme court justices are appointed to ten-year terms. But Bader sees that idea as unrealistic and as something that would be even more difficult to achieve than court-packing.
While the U.S. Constitution, Ginsburg noted, doesn’t specify that the Supreme Court has to have a certain number of justices, it clearly states that Supreme Court appointments are lifetime appointments. Imposing term limits for Supreme Court justices couldn’t be passed simply by getting a bill through both houses of Congress and signed into law by a president — it would require a constitutional amendment.
“Limited terms, I don’t worry about that because the only way you could get that would be to amend the Constitution,” Ginsburg told NPR. “And as you know, our Constitution is powerfully hard to amend. It takes two-thirds of the Senate and the House, and it takes three-quarters of the states.”