After President Trump promised Wednesday to immediately begin the search to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, Republican leaders indicated they will move rapidly while Democrats vowed to resist, with a generational shift of the court at stake.
Author Molly Knight, in a tweet, accused Kennedy of pouring “kerosene on the current dumpster fire that is America.”
“The Roe v Wade riots should provide fine entertainment for him in his retirement,” she wrote, referring to the possibility that a new conservative-majority court could overturn the 1973 decision creating a right to abortion.
Progressive author Elaine Atwell tweeted “we may have just left the point at which we could rely on democratic norms to fix our government, and are now on the road to literal revolution!”
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate will vote on confirmation in the fall. But the second ranking Democratic leader, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., insisted a vote must wait until the new Congress is seated after the fall election, echoing McConnell’s approach two years ago when Senate Republicans delayed acting on a successor to the late Antonin Scalia.
“With so much at stake for the people of our country, the U.S. Senate must be consistent and consider the president’s nominee once the new Congress is seated in January,” Durbin said in a statement.
Clinging to a 51-vote majority in the Senate, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, who will preside over court nominations, said he hopes to hold confirmation hearings “in the weeks ahead.”
Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut described the Kennedy announcement as “earth-shaking” and “gut-wrenching,” saying his departure “means a historic challenge is ahead.”
“The President must appoint an open-minded & fair jurist in Justice Kennedy’s mold.
Shortly after news of Kennedy’s retirement broke, Trump told reporters at the White House Wednesday he will choose from a successor from a list of 25 candidates. He presented a list of 20 names during his election campaign and added five more last fall, emphasizing they are “in the mold” of his first nominee, Neil M. Gorsuch, who has pleased his conservative base.
Bloomberg reported two U.S. officials said Washington-based federal appeals court judge Brett Kavanaugh, a former Kennedy law clerk with close ties to the retiring justice, is a top contender.
Among the judges interviewed in the 2017 nomination process were William Pryor of Alabama, Thomas Hardiman of Pennsylvania and Amul Thapar of Kentucky.
Kennedy’s retirement is effective July 30.
‘Stakes couldn’t be higher’
Recognizing the gravity of replacing Kennedy’s swing vote on the court, Democrats reacted with horror Wednesday, expressing a fierce determination to resist any effort to overturn court precedents such as the Roe v. Wade abortion decision and the 2015 same-sex marriage ruling.
The left-wing activist group MoveOn, saying the “stakes couldn’t be higher,” declared the Senate must not confirm a nominee while President Trump “is under investigation,” referring to the special counsel probe into alleged Trump campaign collusion with Russia.
MoveOn Civic Action’s executive director, Anna Galland, said “marriage equality and women’s reproductive choice are at stake.”
She said Trump “has made it perfectly clear that left unchecked he’ll put another narrow minded elitist on the bench, who would use the seat to do the bidding of wealthy corporations and billionaires and to turn back the clock on the progress our country has made towards protecting the rights of all Americans, including people of color, workers, immigrants, women, and the LGBTQ community.”
Politico’s David Siders provided audio of the reaction to the news at a Democratic National Committee conference Wednesday.
One member exclaimed, “Ohhh,” while another said, “Oh my God.”
A third member commented: “Not that he’s done us any good on these recent decisions, but he was the one who was usually persuadeable.”
How it sounded inside a DNC committee meeting the moment Justice Kennedy’s retirement was announced pic.twitter.com/6S9uO2JGzQ
— David Siders (@davidsiders) June 27, 2018
A sampling of tweets compiled by the Daily Caller further exemplified the alarm:
- Rev. Al Sharpton: We have no choice but to organize, strategize, vote and act. Ambivalent attitudes are not a option! All civil and human rights are at stake. What side are you on?
- Mark Joseph Stern: “Justice Kennedy’s retirement is a catastrophe for liberals. Abortion access, same-sex marriage, voting rights, environmental regulations—they’re all on the line now. This is nothing short of a crisis for the left.”
- Muslim and Black Lives Matter activst Qasin Rashid: The man who upheld the #MuslimBan yesterday just paved the way to repeal Roe v Wade tomorrow.#Kennedy
Meanwhile, Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, couldn’t have agreed more regarding the stakes.
“The importance of the new SCOTUS vacancy cannot be overstated,” he tweeted. President Trump now has another opportunity to appoint an originalist Justice to the Court — one who will respect the rule of law and not legislate from the bench.
“This is massive.”