Only two possibilities, my friends. One: He’s talking out of his ass here, trying to scare the shinola out of well-heeled liberals in order to make them reach for their wallets before the midterms. (See also “impeachment.”) Two: The fix is in.
Over/under on when Ginsburg calls it quits is summer 2015.
“What’s preventing us from getting things done right now is you’ve got a faction within the Republican Party that thinks solely in terms of their own ideological purposes and solely in terms of how do they hang on to power. And that’s a problem,” Mr. Obama said at the Tisbury, Mass., home of Roger H. Brown, president of the Berklee College of Music.
“And that’s why I need a Democratic Senate. Not to mention the fact that we’re going to have Supreme Court appointments.”
You can, if you like, take that as an early hint that Reid intends to nuke the rest of the filibuster if another Court vacancy opens up. Right now, the filibuster still exists for Supreme Court nominees, albeit not for lower-court nominations; in theory, if Ginsburg quit tomorrow, the GOP would need only 41 votes to block her successor — unless Reid suddenly changes the rules once again, that is. Even if, against all odds, Democrats retained control of the Senate, no one thinks they’ll be anywhere near 60 seats next year. And no one seriously believes that Mitch McConnell, as majority leader, would block an Obama nominee from an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. Which is to say, the only reason having an absolute Democratic majority might matter to O is if Reid’s already planning to get rid of the filibuster for SCOTUS appointments too and let Dems confirm the nominee with 51 votes.
As for whether O has inside info on impending retirements, why would he? If Ginsburg or Breyer is inclined to go soon, they have every incentive to do it now so that Senate Democrats can rubber-stamp their successor. Whispering to O that they’re on their way out but not until Republicans control the Senate makes no sense. Meanwhile, if any of the conservatives on the Court are inclined to go soon, there’s no reason why the White House would be uniquely privy to that info; it would leak to tapped-in conservatives too and they’d leak it in turn to conservative media, which would blare it from the mountaintops for the same reason O dropped this tidbit to his donors last night, i.e. to get the base even more excited to vote in the midterms. Ginsburg, the most likely justice to retire, not only has resisted every time she’s been quizzed about it by reporters, she’s actually taken to saying things like, “So tell me who the president could have nominated this spring that you would rather see on the court than me?”
If you still have doubts, check out WaPo’s graphic on SCOTUS retirements. They tend not to happen right before major elections, probably because most justices don’t want the vacancy they’ve created to upend a race that has otherwise been, and should be, about major policy differences.