In the beginning of this first full week of summer, it looked like the big issues leading up to November’s midterm elections were going to be immigration, Obamacare, and North Korea. However, that’s all been thrown out the window now with the bombshell news that Justice Anthony Kennedy is retiring for the Supreme Court.
Court observers have speculated for several years that one or more justices would retire imminently. They focused most intently on Kennedy, who had reached his eighties and did not appear to have the same ideological motivation to stay on the court as justices like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who at 85 is even older than Kennedy. Justices typically retire during the last day of the court’s session, but the court adjourned for the summer on Wednesday with no announcement. But just a few hours later, news broke that Kennedy had met with President Trump and released a letter saying he would retire.
That sent the Left into a tailspin. The reason? Kennedy is the thread by which Roe v. Wade — which has led to 60 million abortions in the U.S. — and to a lesser extent Obergefell v. Hodges hangs. By all accounts, Roe has the support of five justices, including Kennedy. With his retirement, President Trump — who pledged in the 2016 election to nominate pro-life judges — has the opportunity to appoint the justice who will cast the deciding vote to finally overturn the disaster that is Roe.
The media sounded the alarm. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews immediately issued a warning, saying “the Democratic base is wired now for a revolt” and that Democrats in the Senate “should fight this tooth and nail.” He flipped out on his colleagues on-air thusly:
Planned Parenthood made their position clear:
The significance of today’s news cannot be overstated: The right to access abortion in this country is on the line. For more than 40 years, access to safe and legal abortion has been the law of the land and the right to control your body is an essential American liberty. With this vacancy, Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell hold the balance of the court in their hands — and with it, the legal right to access abortion in this country. President Trump has promised to only appoint justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade. The idea of Trump having his choice to fill another vacancy is terrifying for not only abortion rights, but for our ability to live free from discrimination in this country. Planned Parenthood and our 11 million supporters call on the Senate to reject any nominee who would strip people’s individual rights and freedoms.
CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin went ahead and declared Roe v. Wade “doomed”:
Trump has pledged that his pick will come from the list of 25 Federalist Society approved prospects. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has declared unequivocally that Trump’s nominee would be voted on this fall.
Early speculation on who Trump will pick has seemed to focus on two names: Brett Kavanaugh, a judge on the powerful D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals; and Amy Coney Barrett, a judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals who won a bruising confirmation battle in which Democrats attacked her for her Catholic faith. Other names that have been mentioned as part of the short list are Thomas Hardiman (Third Circuit) and William Pryor (Eleventh Circuit), who were believed to be finalists when Trump picked Neil Gorsuch; and to a lesser extent Utah Senator Mike Lee, who has never been a judge but is a highly respected attorney.
Expect Roe v. Wade to be the litmus test against which senators vote. This means that liberal leaning Republican Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) may decide to vote ‘no’ on the nominee. But endangered Democrats with mixed records on abortion facing tough re-election battles this year, such as Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Joe Donnelly of Indiana, may decide to vote for the nominee and cancel out the other ‘no’ votes.
No matter what, it’s going to be a tumultuous summer. Democrats in the Senate, motivated by a vociferous left-wing base, will try every trick in the book to stop the nominee. Expect tactics similar to how they assassinated the character of Judge Robert Bork in the 1980s. It’s going to be bruising. Buckle up.