kennedy retires
June 28, 2018

All eyes are on President Trump, who is preparing to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy with his second pick for the nation's highest court. Because this is not the president's first rodeo, though, anxious onlookers can actually get a pretty good idea of the type of judge Trump might be considering — by looking at his shortlist from last time. "It will be somebody from that list," Trump said Wednesday. "They will come from that list of 25 people."

Of Trump's 25 potential Supreme Court nominees in 2016, 12 were included in an ideological analysis by political scientists Lee Epstein, Andrew D. Martin, and Kevin Quinn, Axios reports. Of those potential nominees, only one — sitting Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) — was rated as being more conservative that Justice Neil Gorsuch, although three others (Diane Sykes, Margaret Ryan, and Raymond Kethledge) were about equally as conservative. Trump's most liberal potential nominee included in the analysis, Thomas Hardiman, fell somewhere between Kennedy and Justice John Roberts in the center of the spectrum.

Trump has said he wants a Supreme Court pick who will serve for "40 years, 45 years," and he is reportedly looking at candidates in their 50s, or ideally 40s. That makes Sykes an unlikelier pick (she is 60) and Lee a "favorite" (he is just 47). Explore the whole analysis at Axios here. Jeva Lange

June 28, 2018

Republicans have hit the ground running following Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy's announcement of his retirement on Wednesday. While many critics have pointed to the irony of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) calling for a smooth and unobstructed hearing for President Trump's eventual nominee, a nonprofit aligned with McConnell has already begun its ad blitz to put pressure on senators who might be on the fence, Politico Playbook reports.

The $100,000 buy covers advertisements in 10 states, including West Virginia, North Dakota, and Indiana, where centrist Democrats Joe Manchin, Heidi Heitkamp, and Joe Donnelly respectively will be facing pressure to join the Republican bloc when the nominee comes to a vote. An ad also targets vulnerable Florida Sen. Bill Nelson (D), warning voters in the Sunshine State that "the far left will stop at nothing to block President Trump's choice."

"Sen. Bill Nelson voted against Justice Neil Gorsuch the last time," it goes on. "Will he cave to the extreme left again?" Watch the spot below. Jeva Lange

June 27, 2018

Just hours after Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement, conservative groups were ready to go to bat for his still-unnamed replacement.

The Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative activist group, released an ad lauding President Trump and the bang-up job he did nominating Justice Neil Gorsuch last year. Trump has shown he "wants the best of the best on the Supreme Court," the ad argues, so the new vacancy is an exciting opportunity to get "another star" confirmed.

The group is also apparently ready to step into the ring for an all-out brawl with Democrats over the nomination. "Like they did before, extremists will lie and attack the nominee," the ad claimed, flashing photos of high-profile Democratic senators. "Don't be fooled," it warns, Trump is sure to choose "#AnotherGreatJustice" — the pick just might be in for #AnotherBigShowdown. Watch the full ad below. Summer Meza

June 27, 2018

The 2016 presidential election is proving to be extremely consequential for the future of the Supreme Court.

Because President Trump's win was earned through Electoral College votes, not the popular vote, it was essentially a tiny fraction of Americans who led to Trump's opportunity to choose two Supreme Court justices, an NBC News reporter pointed out Wednesday.

Just 80,000 votes across three different states were a deciding factor in the presidential race, reports Mark Murray. Once Trump took office, he appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch, a conservative constitutionalist. Now that Justice Anthony Kennedy is retiring, there will be another seat open, and Trump has already signaled that he plans to nominate a conservative replacement as quickly as possible.

If Trump succeeds in confirming another justice without Democrats blocking the nominee, that would mean that the miniscule fraction of Americans who made the difference in the 2016 election — roughly 0.02 percent of the U.S. population — played a major role in bringing two conservative justices to the nation's highest bench.

Don't let anyone tell you that your vote doesn't matter. Summer Meza

June 27, 2018

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) hasn't forgotten about Merrick Garland.

Right after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced that the upper chamber will vote to confirm outgoing Justice Anthony Kennedy's replacement before November's midterm elections, Schumer served him with a flashback.

Republican senators should "follow the rule they set in 2016 not to consider a Supreme Court justice in an election year," Schumer said on the Senate floor Wednesday. After all, McConnell repeatedly insisted that the next president should get to nominate the late Justice Antonin Scalia's replacement, and the next Senate should confirm them — declining to hold a hearing for Garland, former President Barack Obama's nominee, in the process.

"Millions of people are just months away from determining the senators who should confirm or reject the president's nominee, and their voices deserve to be heard now as McConnell thought they should deserve to be heard then," Schumer insisted. "Anything other than that would be the absolute height of hypocrisy."

Schumer has good reason for the snark: Kennedy's spot is "the most important Supreme Court vacancy for this country in at least a generation," he said Wednesday. Kennedy was a conservative-leaning swing vote on the court, but a President Trump-appointed conservative would likely spell big, potentially precedent-busting decisions from the high court on abortion rights and health care. Kathryn Krawczyk

June 27, 2018

MSNBC's Chris Matthews demanded Democrats fight President Trump's nominee to replace Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy "tooth and nail" while speaking on Hardball on Wednesday.

"They have to use every process [and] opportunity they have to stop this," Matthews went on, adding: "The base will attack the leadership for this if they allow [Republicans to pack the court], and they should. This is the time for vengeance for what happened two years ago."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told the Senate on Wednesday that it was "imperative" that "the president's nominee be treated fairly," despite the fact that he led the effort to block former President Barack Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland, from getting a hearing after the February 2016 death of Antonin Scalia. Some Democrats, including Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), have already said that "the Senate should do nothing to artificially delay" the next Supreme Court nominee.

Watch Matthews on Hardball below. Jeva Lange

June 27, 2018

Republicans aren't planning to stretch the Supreme Court nomination cycle this time around. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced Wednesday that there would be a quick nomination and confirmation process for replacing outgoing Justice Anthony Kennedy, and Republicans are apparently already speculating it'll help them in the midterms this fall.

Rumors that Kennedy would step down were already swirling as this Supreme Court decision cycle approached, and Kennedy confirmed his retirement Wednesday. Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) wished for Kennedy's departure in March, saying a new justice "will get our base a little motivated," per audio obtained by Politico. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) recently told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt his message for potential retirees: "If you're thinking about quitting this year, do it yesterday."

A fresh conservative face on the court could remind Republicans how great it is to have a majority as they vote this November, FiveThirtyEight suggests. And CNN correspondent Manu Raju had another explanation for the Republican celebration:

It could benefit Republican senators up for re-election to play the waiting game, as conservative voters fed up with their senator may not risk a protest vote with the end of Roe v. Wade at stake. But having a SCOTUS seat up in the air would likely just turn these midterms into an all-out war, says Ed Kilgore at Daily Intelligencer. "It's a really big deal," Kilgore writes. "Fasten your seat belts for a wild ride." Kathryn Krawczyk

June 27, 2018

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced he was retiring Wednesday, news that has devastated Democrats because of the threat of who President Trump might nominate as a replacement. The DNC Rules Committee found out the news during a meeting, and Politico's David Siders has audio of their distraught reaction. Listen below. Jeva Lange

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