A few things. First, federal judges (district court and circuit court judges, too, not just Supreme Court justices) are quite specifically appointed for life (". . . shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services, a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.")
There’s a good reason for this, and it’s to ensure an independent judiciary. There’s not much anyone can do to lean on a federal judge. It’s not like state court judges, who have to run for re-election, and who may be at the mercy of the party bosses who control the ballot lines (as is the case here where I live, and the boss of the Kings County Democratic organization is the kingmaker when it comes to judgeships). It’s pretty effective. And nobody can reduce their pay. It’s the best pension plan in the world – they get paid their fully salary until they die, even long after they’re retired. If they choose to retire.
I suspect that SC justices pride themselves on not paying any attention to prevailing political winds, and that’s probably as true of Thomas as it is of Breyer. And sometimes that works against what we’d like, I guess, but on the whole, in the long run, I don’t think it’s such a terrible thing.
And between being invulnerable to pressure, and considering themselves above politics (rightly or wrongly), they’re going to stick around as long as they’re able. Hardly surprising.
And maybe it’s arguable that they should be required to step down at some point. I’d rather see that happen by statute applying to all judges than see a judge choose to retire for political reasons. If Justice Breyer were to retire to ensure that a Democratic president would name his replacement, or if Justice Ginsburg had, it worries me a bit that a precedent would be set that won’t always work in our favor.
I’m not a lawyer – would an age-limit statute require a constitutional amendment? I have no idea, but if so, it’s never going to happen. Certainly not in our lifetimes.
Also, not that I wish physical harm to Mitch McConnell, but perhaps a real road-to-Damascus experience, and subsequent vocation to a monastery? Something along those lines.