Justice Anthony Kennedy made the right decision to retire and President Donald Trump is poised to make a “stellar” replacement for the Supreme Court, The Wall Street Journal editorial board wrote Thursday.
Kennedy announced his retirement Wednesday, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said his chamber will vote on the justice’s replacement in the fall. With a Republican majority in the Senate, Democrats will likely not be able to stop Trump from stacking the nation’s highest court with a conservative majority.
“The fight to replace [Kennedy] was always going to be titanic, and by retiring on July 31 he gives a Republican President and Senate an opening to nominate and confirm a replacement with the best chance of keeping the Court tethered to the Constitution,” the board wrote. “President Trump made an excellent choice in Justice Neil Gorsuch, and the list of judges provided by adviser Leonard Leo and his White House counsel contains stellar names.”
Few justices loom as large as Kennedy in the history of the high court. As the bench became an object of political competition and itself began to reflect the country’s ideological entrenchment, Kennedy led narrow majorities to landmark decisions on gay rights, abortion, the First Amendment and Guantanamo Bay detainees. (RELATED: NeverTrumpers Eat Crow As Trump Looks To Appoint New Conservative Justice)
Democrats fear a conservative majority could spell the end of Roe V. Wade and even gay marriage, but TheWSJ said those outcomes are unlikely.
“As for the Court after Justice Kennedy, we doubt it will overturn his precedents on abortion or gay marriage. Even with a new conservative Justice, Chief Justice Roberts remains a legal and political wild card, and we use those words advisedly,” TheWSJ predicted. “He will certainly not want the Court to overturn the gay marriage case so soon after it was decided, lest it make the Justices seem too political.”
While Trump has yet to name a nominee, that nominee’s path to the bench seems clear. Anti-Trump Republican Rep. Jeff Flake of Arizona has already confirmed he won’t stand in the way of the appointment, and McConnell is expected to block the Democrats’ ability to filibuster, just as former Democratic Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada did in 2013. (RELATED: Mark Levin Goes After NeverTrumpers After SCOTUS Picks)
“They can’t block it,” Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn told reporters. “There used not to be filibusters of judges until the George W. Bush presidency, and now all the filibuster activity and precedents have been overruled, so we are looking at 51 to confirm or 50 plus the vice president. I’m optimistic we’ll be able to get this done.”
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