U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s announcement this week that he will step down from the bench at the end of next month caused palpable consternation among a number of prominent Democrats.
An overall conservative with a progressive streak, especially related to social issues, the 81-year-old Kennedy has frequently been the deciding vote in important narrow decisions.
As Republicans push for a nomination and confirmation before November’s midterm elections, which would give President Donald Trump his second high court pick of his first term, Democrats are hoping to stall in hopes that they will control the Senate — and the confirmation process — in 2019.
According to Politico, several Democrats could not contain their dismay upon hearing of Kennedy’s retirement during a conference call on Wednesday that included members of the Democratic National Committee.
A leaked recording of the call published by Politico said it all. Deep into what Politico described as a Rules & Bylaws Committee meeting, one attendee chimed in with the breaking news.
“Justice Anthony Kennedy has just announced that he’s retiring,” the member said.
In short order, several groans can be heard in audio recording of the call.
“Oh my God,” one person said. Several others added exasperated sighs and moans.
One woman added that it was “not good news.”
An individual who apparently disagreed with Kennedy’s decisions on a number of cases nevertheless lamented the fact that he will be leaving the court.
“Not that he’s done us any good on these recent decisions, but he was the one occasionally persuadable,” the participant said.
As the news began to spread, several prominent Democrats released statements. Many, including U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California, encouraged the party to stall the confirmation process for any candidate on Trump’s list of potential Supreme Court justices.
“We should not vote on confirmation until they have voted at the ballot box,” she said. “The president’s list of potential nominees are complete non-starters. They are conservative ideologues instead of mainstream jurists. We cannot and will not accept them to serve on the highest court in the land which is supposed to stand for equal protection under the law and justice for all.”
Republican leaders, however, have signaled the nomination and confirmation is expected to play out before November’s elections.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said immediately after the announcement that lawmakers will “vote to confirm Justice Kennedy’s successor this fall.”
His Democratic counterpart, however, pointed to McConnell’s own argument after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in urging Republicans to stall the process.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer tweeted that the GOP “should follow the rule they set in 2016 not to consider a SCOTUS nominee in an election year.”
My @SenateGOP colleagues should follow the rule they set in 2016 not to consider a SCOTUS nominee in an election year. Sen McConnell would tell anyone who listened that the Senate had the right to advise & consent, & that was every bit as important as POTUS’ right to nominate.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) June 27, 2018
“Sen McConnell would tell anyone who listened that the Senate had the right to advise & consent, & that was every bit as important as POTUS’ right to nominate,” Schumer wrote.
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