Donald Trump's Supreme Court pick: Who, When, How

04 July, 2018, 06:33 | Author: Sherry Houston
  • Anthony Kennedy

Abortion rights groups - responding to Justice Anthony Kennedy's announcement he will retire in July from the Supreme Court - did not wait to hear who Trump's latest nominee will be before lobbying Collins to oppose the pick.

For the second time since he took office a year and a half ago, Donald Trump is weighing one of the most consequential decisions a president can make: selecting a Supreme Court justice.

At the same time, supporting Trump's nominee could bring its own political peril for Democrats - and the two Republicans - whose votes could be seen as the ones that could tip the 4-4 split on the court after Kennedy's departure toward conservatives for a generation to come.

While Trump says he will review an existing list of 25 possible nominees, aides said only a few names can be considered serious contenders.

Justice Kennedy sometimes joined the liberal justices on key rulings, earning a reputation as the court's "swing" vote who heartened conservatives and liberals alike, depending on the issue. "Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president", McConnell said in a statement released the night Scalia died. "And hopefully we're going to pick somebody who will be as outstanding". And Democrats have a point in noting now that the crux of McConnell's argument - to give voters a say in the process - could also apply to the midterm elections since senators must confirm Supreme Court nominations.

"Outside of war and peace, of course, the most important decision you make is the selection of a Supreme Court judge, if you get it", Trump said.

Veronica Fowler of the ACLU of Iowa said that while getting the law to the Supreme Court "was definitely the goal of some extremist politicians in the Iowa Legislature", the group "purposely chose to challenge it under the Iowa Constitution because any appeals would end up in the Iowa Supreme Court".

What's becoming clear, though, is that to win over some of the senators, the administration will need to steer away from a nominee with widely and publicly shared personal views on abortion or overturning Roe vs. Wade.

"No matter how I vote there are going to be people who are furious at me", Collins said.

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A court seat being on the line proved a powerful incentive for Republicans that fall, many willing to set aside their distaste for Trump's personal failings and incendiary rhetoric in order to add a conservative to the court.

"More Democrats voting in already liberal NY over the Supreme Court doesn't change anything", Democratic pollster Doug Schoen told me.

It's not certain who has made the president's shortlist, but many outlets have reported that Judge Brett Kavanaugh, a former Kennedy clerk, is the frontrunner.

While Kennedy's replacement will not change the numerical ideological balance on the court, Trump could appoint a justice more staunchly conservative than Kennedy and less likely to occasionally side with the court's liberal wing.

"I'm very proud of Neil Gorsuch", Trump continued. In the court's most recent major abortion ruling, Kennedy was in the majority to strike down regulations on Texas abortion clinics.

Trump won West Virginia by 42 percentage points in the 2016 election, North Dakota by 36 percentage points and in by more than 19 percentage points.

Kennedy's retirement was disclosed on the final day of the court's current term, which began in October.

The president and Senate Republicans are moving quickly to replace the retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, despite protests from Democrats.

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