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 McConnellMcConnell says he made 'inadvertent omission' in voting remarks amid backlash These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 WATCH: The Hill recaps the top stories of the week MORE (R-Ky.) said the Senate would act before the midterm elections to confirm a new pick nominated by President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden says Roe v. Wade under attack like 'never before' On student loans, Biden doesn't have an answer yet Grill company apologizes after sending meatloaf recipe on same day of rock star's death MORE.
“We will vote to confirm Justice Kennedy’s successor this fall,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.
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 MurphyDemocrats torn over pushing stolen-election narrative Wicker: Biden comments on Ukraine caused 'distress' for both parties Biden huddles with group of senators on Ukraine-Russia tensions 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 GarlandNewsom vows crackdown: Rail car looting like 'third world country' Tlaib blasts Biden judicial nominee whose firm sued environmental lawyer Oath Keeper charges renew attention on Trump orbit 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 ManchinJoe ManchinArizona Democratic Party executive board censures Sinema Biden seeks to save what he can from Build Back Better On The Money — Labor chief touts efforts to promote job growth MORE (W.Va.), Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn Heitkamp11 former Democratic senators call for 'meaningful reform to Senate rules' Harry Reid, political pugilist and longtime Senate majority leader, dies Virginia loss lays bare Democrats' struggle with rural voters MORE (N.D.) and Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyFormer Sen. Donnelly confirmed as Vatican ambassador Biden to have audience with pope, attend G20 summit Biden taps former Indiana Sen. Donnelly as ambassador to Vatican MORE (Ind.).
Republicans hold just 51 seats and usually have just 50 in the chamber due to Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainThese Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Redistricting reform key to achieving the bipartisanship Americans claim to want Kelly takes under-the-radar approach in Arizona Senate race 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 CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden clarifies his remarks on Russia Effort to overhaul archaic election law wins new momentum Bipartisan lawmakers announce climate adaptation bill MORE (Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiThese Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Overnight Energy & Environment — Starting from 'scratch' on climate, spending bill Bipartisan lawmakers announce climate adaptation bill 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 GrahamSenators introduce bill aimed at protecting Ukrainian civilians Kyrsten Sinema's courage, Washington hypocrisy and the politics of rage Hillicon Valley: Amazon's Alabama union fight — take two 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 KennedyLouisiana Democrat running for US Senate smokes marijuana in campaign ad MORE (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.”