Conservative groups prepared to spend big to boost next Supreme Court nominee

Conservative groups prepared to spend big to boost next Supreme Court nominee
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A pair of top conservative groups announced Wednesday they plan to spend at least $1 million each on the looming battle to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and the Judicial Crisis Network each announced within hours of Kennedy's retirement announcement that they would commit seven-figures to support President TrumpDonald John TrumpMnuchin knocks Greta Thunberg's activism: Study economics and then 'come back' to us The Hill's Morning Report - House prosecutes Trump as 'lawless,' 'corrupt' What to watch for on Day 3 of Senate impeachment trial MORE's next Supreme Court nominee.

AFP, the political arm of the Koch network, said in a statement it is "prepared to commit seven-figures to support a nominee in the mold of Neil Gorsuch - someone who will interpret the law as written and not legislate from the bench."

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The group indicated it would support a nominee off the list of 25 candidates that the White House released in November, a list Trump pointed to on Wednesday when discussing the search for Kennedy's replacement

"We’re pleased with the White House’s list of prospective nominees and we look forward to seeing who they nominate," Sarah Field, AFP's vice president of judicial strategy, said in an email.

AFP is the political arm of the network founded by GOP mega-donors and conservative industrialists Charles and David Koch. David Koch stepped down from Koch Industries earlier this month due to health reasons.

Another top conservative group, Judicial Crisis Network, announced Wednesday afternoon a $1 million ad campaign to bolster Trump’s eventual pick and voiced support for the president's list of potential nominees.

"Like Justice Gorsuch, all of the men and women on President Trump’s judicial list are the best and brightest in their field," Carrie Severino, the group's policy director, said in a statement.

"Like Justice Gorsuch, each one of them has the wisdom and experience necessary to sit on the Supreme Court from day one," she continued. "We look forward to President Trump nominating another great justice.”

The group released an ad shortly after Kennedy’s announcement, touting the opportunity for Trump to “appoint another great justice.” The ad goes on to attack Democrats as “extremists” who will "lie and attack the nominee."

Kennedy, 81, announced earlier Wednesday that he intends to retire effective July 31, leaving after 30 years on the court. The decision provides Trump with the chance to nominate another conservative justice, further altering the judicial landscape for years to come.

Trump told reporters he plans to begin the search for Kennedy's replacement "immediately," adding that the pick will come from the White House list of 25 candidates.

Kennedy's retirement has already led lawmakers to draw partisan battle lines.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - House prosecutes Trump as 'lawless,' 'corrupt' Tensions between McConnell and Schumer run high as trial gains momentum No. 2 GOP leader eyes Wednesday of next week for possible votes on witnesses MORE (R-Ky.), who refused to hold a hearing for then-President Obama's Supreme Court nominee Merrick GarlandMerrick Brian GarlandMitch McConnell may win the impeachment and lose the Senate The Trumpification of the federal courts Juan Williams: GOP are hypocrites on impeachment MORE in 2016, said he plans to have a vote on Kennedy's successor this fall.

Democrats have argued that McConnell should keep the seat open until after the November midterm elections so the newly elected Congress can have a say in the nomination.

Republicans have a slim 51-seat majority in the Senate and are effectively capped at 50 votes, with Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMartha McSally fundraises off 'liberal hack' remark to CNN reporter Meghan McCain blasts NY Times: 'Everyone already knows how much you despise' conservative women GOP senator calls CNN reporter a 'liberal hack' when asked about Parnas materials MORE (R-Ariz.) battling brain cancer.

Democrats will then need to win over at least one GOP senator and keep their caucus together to block Trump's nominee after Republicans went "nuclear" and removed the 60-vote procedural hurdle when they confirmed Gorsuch, Trump's first Supreme Court nominee.

Three Democrats up for reelection this year in states won by Trump in 2016 – Sens. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinTrump's trial a major test for McConnell, Schumer Poll: West Virginia voters would view Manchin negatively if he votes to convict Trump Pelosi set to send impeachment articles to the Senate next week MORE (W.Va.), Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampSusan Collins set to play pivotal role in impeachment drama Pro-trade group launches media buy as Trump and Democrats near deal on new NAFTA The Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same MORE (N.D.) and Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyGinsburg health scare raises prospect of election year Supreme Court battle Watchdog accuses pro-Kavanaugh group of sending illegal robotexts in 2018 Lobbying world MORE (Ind.) — voted for Gorsuch last year.