President Donald J. Trump’s nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late-Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court was one of the most contentious nominations in United States history. Gorsuch’s nomination resulted in Democrats engaging in the first partisan filibuster of a Supreme Court justice, although their filibuster failed to stop Gorsuch from taking the bench.
Now that Gorsuch is officially a member of the Supreme Court, political pundits have been speculating as to which justice will likely vacate the bench next. Senator Chuck Grassley even boldly predicted that a vacancy will occur as soon as this year, stunning many in the political class.
Well, it is now being reported that conservatives are preparing for Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is 80 years old and served on the Supreme Court since 1988, to retire this year.
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) May 1, 2017
Friends and associates believe Kennedy is seriously considering retirement. In general, the burdens of age and demands at the court weigh in one direction. His deep interest — and leading role — in America’s constitutional democracy weigh in the other.
The question appears not to be whether Kennedy will retire soon, but when — at the end of this June, or next?
In response to a request from CNN, Kennedy, a 1988 appointee of Republican President Ronald Reagan, declined to comment on his retirement plans. He also declined to respond to questions related to any private meeting with anyone from the Trump administration.
Trump told the Washington Times this weekend he wasn’t aware of any specific plans for Kennedy to retire.
“I don’t know. I have a lot of respect for Justice Kennedy, but I just don’t know,” Trump said. “I don’t like talking about it. I’ve heard the same rumors that a lot of people have heard. And I have a lot of respect for that gentleman, a lot.”
Unlike Justice Gorsuch, who replaced a fellow conservative, Antonin Scalia, on the bench, Justice Kennedy is seen as the swing vote on the court, and his retirement could significantly alter the court’s political balance.
Democrats, who chose to pick a battle over Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation, after Republicans blocked Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland, may have little power in blocking President Trump’s next nominee. Republicans changed Senate rules to override a Democrat filibuster, meaning any future Supreme Court nominee would only need 50 votes for confirmation.
If Justice Kennedy does retire, President Trump should replace him with a conservative justice, ensuring that the court will have a conservative majority for decades. While Democrats will likely want President Trump to nominate a moderate to replace Kennedy, conservatives will likely want the president to select someone from the list of judges he released during the 2016 election.
Democrats overplayed their hand by filibustering Gorsuch’s nomination, and will have to play the political price with whoever President Trump nominates to fill the next vacated Supreme Court seat.
Which Supreme Court justice do you think will retire next? Should President Trump put another conservative on the court? Share your thoughts below!