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 McConnellFurious Republicans prepare to rebuke Trump on Syria Republicans wrestle with impeachment strategy Mattis warns 'ISIS will resurge' without U.S. pressure on Syria MORE (R-Ky.) said the Senate would act before the midterm elections to confirm a new pick nominated by President TrumpDonald John TrumpWHCA calls on Trump to denounce video depicting him shooting media outlets Video of fake Trump shooting members of media shown at his Miami resort: report Trump hits Fox News's Chris Wallace over Ukraine coverage 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 MurphyCongress set for showdown with Trump over Kurds Administration to give 'top secret' briefing on Syria amid pushback Senators call for Trump administration to testify on Syria 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 GarlandSupreme Court can prove its independence — or its partisan capture The Hill's 12:30 Report: Dems seize on Ukraine transcript in impeachment fight Brett Kavanaugh debate exemplifies culture war between left and right 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) ManchinThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by USAA — Ex-Ukraine ambassador testifies Trump pushed for her ouster GOP requests update on criminal referrals prompted by 2018 Kavanaugh probe Fallout from Kavanaugh confirmation felt in Washington one year later MORE (W.Va.), Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampThe Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same Trump wins 60 percent approval in rural areas of key states Pence to push new NAFTA deal in visit to Iowa MORE (N.D.) and Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyWatchdog accuses pro-Kavanaugh group of sending illegal robotexts in 2018 Lobbying world Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand MORE (Ind.).

Republicans hold just 51 seats and usually have just 50 in the chamber due to Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainVideo of fake Trump shooting members of media shown at his Miami resort: report Remembering leaders who put country above party Graham-Trump rollercoaster hits dizzying speed 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 CollinsFurious Republicans prepare to rebuke Trump on Syria McConnell tightlipped as impeachment furor grows Congress set for showdown with Trump over Kurds MORE (Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiMurkowski warns against rushing to conclusions on Trump impeachment GOP requests update on criminal referrals prompted by 2018 Kavanaugh probe Republicans show signs of discomfort in defense of Trump   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 GrahamFurious Republicans prepare to rebuke Trump on Syria Democrats to offer resolution demanding Trump reverse Syria decision Army officer calls Syria pullback 'a stain on the American conscience' 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.”