Ruth Bader Ginsburg knows how to count votes.
The liberal Supreme Court justice has been the target of a campaign from her own allies who want her to leave the court while President Obama still has a chance to nominate her replacement.
For those unsentimental critics, her departure can't come soon enough: Obama may have another two years in the White House, but his Democratic majority in the Senate may be gone by January. Good luck getting Mitch McConnell to confirm the kind of justice who made her name fighting for abortion rights.
But as Ginsburg sees it, it's already too late.
In an interview in Elle magazine, she pushed back against those who are pushing her off the bench.
She pointed out that with the election season in full swing, the Senate isn't confirming anybody to the Supreme Court anytime soon, no matter who is in charge. And while Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) earlier this year engineered a rules change preventing the Republicans from filibustering lower court nominees, it excluded appointments to the Supreme Court.
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 Democrats] 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."
Ginsburg is mostly correct, although she glosses over one key point: Reid can probably change the rules again, as long as Democrats are in the majority. Whether you like him or not, the onetime boxer from Searchlight, Nevada, comes from the Machiavelli school of Senate leadership. His first major rules change came after years in which he swore he would never gut the filibuster as he did, and if it comes down to a decision as important as confirming a Supreme Court justice, there's no telling what he'll do.
But with the best-case scenario for Democrats a slim majority in 2015 and 2016, Ginsburg is right that any justice Obama hopes to get confirmed will be significantly more middle-of-the-road than she has been.