Kennedy Signals Exit, SCOTUS To Turn Right

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement announcement yesterday set the stage for a heated, highly divisive confirmation battle this fall — with Democrats pushing for hearings after the midterm elections and Republicans insisting they’ll take place before.

The 81-year-old Kennedy, who was appointed by Ronald Reagan and has served on the court for more than 30 years, is a conservative-leaning centrist jurist who was frequently the “swing” vote in 5-4 majorities on decisions regarding abortion, affirmative action, campaign finance and gay rights. He is retiring at the end of July, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he intends to confirm Kennedy’s replacement, which could change the political makeup of the Senate, before November’s midterm elections.

Currently, Republicans hold a 51-49 majority and under a rule change that confirmed Justice Neil Gorsurch in 2017, can use a simple majority to approve new justices.

Democrats have called for any confirmation to be held after the midterm, with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer citing Republican refusal to hold confirmation hearings on former President Barack Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland in the election year of 2016.

“This might be the biggest opportunity and moment of the Trump presidency — given the gridlock in Congress, the Supreme Court is the most influential branch of government on people’s everyday lives,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell, who also predicted fireworks at the confirmation hearing. “I expect it to be turned up to nine — the Republican goal will be to end it as quickly as possible and Democrats will try to air every grievance under the sun.”

Trump’s most recent list of 25 potential Supreme Court candidates released last November included former Waltham resident Thomas Hardiman, a U.S. Court of Appeals judge in Pennsylvania; Appellate Court judge Brett Kavanaugh of Maryland; and Utah Sen. Mike Lee. Trump also is considering several members of state Supreme Courts.

Read more from Dan Atkinson and Mary Markos at the Boston Herald

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