Senate set for intense fight over Trump’s pick to replace Kennedy

Senate set for intense fight over Trump’s pick to replace Kennedy
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Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement has already triggered an intense Senate fight over the confirmation of his successor.

Moments after Kennedy said he would retire, Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - A raucous debate on race ends with Trump admonishment White House, Congress inch toward debt, budget deal Republicans scramble to contain Trump fallout MORE (R-Ky.) said the Senate would act before the midterm elections to confirm a new pick nominated by President TrumpDonald John TrumpPompeo changes staff for Russia meeting after concerns raised about top negotiator's ties: report House unravels with rise of 'Les Enfants Terrible' Ben Carson: Trump is not a racist and his comments were not racist MORE.

“We will vote to confirm Justice Kennedy’s successor this fall,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.

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Democrats immediately cried foul, arguing the nomination fight should come after the midterms.

“Wait, so the thing about ‘the American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice’ wasn’t really about a concern for the American people?” tweeted Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyDemocratic Sen. Chris Murphy announces book on gun violence Lawmakers join Nats Park fundraiser for DC kids charity Democrats look to demonize GOP leader MORE (D-Conn.). “It was just about Obama?? I am shocked! SHOCKED!!”

Murphy’s remarks referenced the Senate GOP’s decision to block Merrick GarlandMerrick Brian GarlandDem senators demand GOP judicial group discloses donors John Legend: Republicans play to win, Biden plays to impress the media Biden says he opposes expanding the Supreme Court MORE, former President Obama’s pick to replace Justice Antonin Scalia after his death in 2016. McConnell and other Senate Republicans argued at the time that the pick was too important and that it should wait until after the presidential election.

Democrats remain bitter over that fight, and they sought to block Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the court last year. Senate Republicans got rid of the filibuster on Supreme Court nominations in response and confirmed Gorsuch in April 2017.

McConnell called on Democrats to give Trump’s next pick fair consideration.

“It’s imperative that the president’s nominee be considered fairly and not subjected to personal attacks,” he said.

A vote before the midterm elections could be difficult for a number of Democratic senators facing reelection in states won by Trump, including Sens. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinTrump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand Kentucky Democrat says primary challenge to McGrath 'might be helpful' McConnell's Democratic challenger McGrath backtracks on Kavanaugh comments MORE (W.Va.), Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampTrump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand McConnell's Democratic challenger McGrath backtracks on Kavanaugh comments McConnell's Democratic challenger says she likely would have voted for Kavanaugh MORE (N.D.) and Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyTrump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand GOP frets over nightmare scenario for Senate primaries McConnell's Democratic challenger McGrath backtracks on Kavanaugh comments MORE (Ind.).

Republicans hold just 51 seats and usually have just 50 in the chamber due to Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainThe peculiar priorities of Adam Schiff Ocasio-Cortez fires back at Lindsey Graham: 'Graham wants to bring back 1950s McCarthyism' Meghan McCain knocks Lindsey Graham for defending Trump's tweets: 'This is not the person I used to know' MORE’s (R-Ariz.) ongoing treatment for brain cancer.

That means they can likely only afford one defection on a Trump pick — unless they can convince some Democratic senators to back Trump’s nominee.

Abortion is likely to be a flashpoint in the debate as Kennedy had been the fifth vote for upholding Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that established a right to abortion in 1973.

Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTrump angry more Republicans haven't defended his tweets: report Republicans scramble to contain Trump fallout The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump digs in ahead of House vote to condemn tweet MORE (Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOvernight Defense: Highlights from Defense pick's confirmation hearing | Esper spars with Warren over ethics | Sidesteps questions on Mattis vs. Trump | Trump says he won't sell F-35s to Turkey Epstein charges show Congress must act to protect children from abuse PBS premieres first nationally distributed kids' show with Native American lead MORE (Alaska) are two pro-abortion rights Republicans who are likely to exert significant influence on the debate.

They voted last year against legislation to repeal and replace ObamaCare in part because it would have defunded Planned Parenthood.

Some GOP lawmakers say they want a conservative justice and have praised the possible candidates Trump listed during his 2016 presidential campaign as acceptable.

“The president has a lot of good choices. I hope they can give us a good, highly qualified nominee quickly. Then we’ll get on with it,” said Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump digs in ahead of House vote to condemn tweet Why Trump's bigoted tropes won't work in 2020 The Memo: Toxic 2020 is unavoidable conclusion from Trump tweets MORE (R-S.C.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Graham, the sponsor of a bill to restrict abortion after 20 weeks, downplayed the likely impact on Roe v. Wade.

“Roe v. Wade has been affirmed many times in different ways,” he said. “There’s no litmus test.”

Republicans say they want to get started on the confirmation process as soon as possible.

“Aug. 1 we need to have someone ready,” said Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.), another member of the Judiciary Committee.

“I want a good lawyer who is whip smart, who is not a hater, who calls the balls and the strikes, who understands the way Madison meant the separation of powers to work, and who will listen to all points of view,” Kennedy added.

“I want somebody who’s going to call it like he or she sees it and follow the law. I don’t want somebody who’s going to rewrite a statute or a Constitution every Thursday.”