WASHINGTON — Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy have already dug in their heels when it comes to replacing Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who announced his retirement Wednesday. They want to wait until after the mid-term elections.
President Donald Trump said Wednesday he would begin an immediate search for a replacement to Kennedy — known as a swing vote on the highest court — likely from a list of 25 conservative jurists the Trump administration has already compiled.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took to the Senate floor moments after Kennedy’s announcement to say that he plans to push a confirmation vote ahead of the mid-term elections.
“We will vote to confirm Justice Kennedy’s successor this fall,” McConnell said.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer suggested that the vote should be delayed until after the elections just as Republicans had delayed a vote to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, ahead of the 2016 presidential election.
Millions of people are just months away from determining the Senators who should vote to confirm or reject (Trump’s) nominee and their voices deserve to be heard now, as the Senate Majority Leader thought they deserved to be heard then, Schumer said. “Anything but that would be the absolute height of hypocrisy.”
Blumenthal agreed with the statement Schumer posted on Twitter.
The American people should have a voice. A confirmation vote should take place after a new Congress is seated. My Republican colleagues should follow their own precedent,” he posted on Twitter.
Murphy issued a press statement saying McConnell set a precedent in denying holding a confirmation hearing for President Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland in 2016 and should “stick to the rule he set.”
“Under the McConnell rule, the Senate shouldn’t consider any nominee for the Supreme Court until January, and I expect Republicans in the Senate to honor the rule they all agreed to just two short years ago,” he said.
Murphy said he would do “everything in my power to stop him” if McConnell starts the proceedings ahead of that time. Democrats, however, have little power — other than the bully pulpit — to hold up a confirmation vote under Senate rules.
Republicans hold a 51-49 majority at this time, giving them the upper hand in moving forward now with a Supreme Court nominee. Democrats are hoping the 2018 mid-term elections will bring them the majority but have only a small window of opportunity given the seats in play.
The Supreme Court battle will be used by both parties to raise funds and drive partisans to the polls.
Kennedy has served 30 years on the Supreme Court. While generally siding with conservatives on the bench, he has broken on some major issues involving abortion rights, same-sex marriage, and the death penalty.