In Supreme Court pick, Trump can push conservative social agenda

Charlene Craig
June 28, 2018

"It's extremely likely President Trump is going to appoint someone who is not going to follow Justice Kennedy's lead in those cases and will go even further in undermining constitutional rights and degrading the rule of law", said Elizabeth Wydra, president of the liberal leaning Constitutional Accountability Center.

In 2017, Trump nominated and won confirmation of former Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Neil Gorsuch, a conservative jurist who replaced Scalia and played a key role in several important decisions this term, including those upholding Trump's travel ban on immigrants from several countries, most of which are majority Muslim, on national security grounds, and finding that public employees can not be forced to pay agency dues to unions they do not belong to but bargain collectively on their behalf.

Kennedy informed his colleagues of his plans, then went to the White House to meet with Trump, where the president said they talked for half an hour about a potential successor and other topics. A Republican appointee, he has held the key vote on such high-profile issues as abortion, affirmative action, gay rights, guns, campaign finance and voting rights.

"Justice Kennedy's retirement makes the issue of Senate control one of the most important issues of our time, the most important thing we can do", Trump declared, warning his supporters that Democrats would pick judges that would "destroy your freedoms".

But picking an ultra-conservative as his nominee would carry risk because Trump would have to rely on some moderate Republicans to win approval in the U.S. Senate, where his fellow Republicans have a narrow majority.

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They believe the timing could help Trump boost conservative voters' enthusiasm and turnout at congressional elections in November. "You never had one!"

Trump's first high court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, was confirmed in April 2017. A frequent swing vote in the past, Kennedy sided with the court's conservative bloc in every one of the 5-4 split decisions this term. "Think about it. The court that just this week crippled unions, upheld Trump's Muslim ban, and race-based gerrymandering, might turn conservative!"

Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, said Kennedy's role as the deciding votes in big cases means this confirmation fight will be more consequential than any in decades.

But several Democratic lawmakers accused McConnell of being a hypocrite considering that the GOP leader blocked President Obama's Supreme Court nominee in 2016 because it was an election year.

In a statement, Heitkamp, who has highlighted her support for the president's agenda in campaign ads, did not respond to Trump's Supreme Court remarks but reaffirmed her interest in working with Trump.

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"We will begin our search for a new justice of the United States Supreme Court".

Brett Kavanaugh, a federal appeals court judge in Washington, was seen by some legal experts on Wednesday as the front-runner on President Trump's list of contenders to fill the vacancy left by Kennedy's retirement.

Contentious confirmation hearings in the Senate delayed his confirmation until 2006. Trump has also appointed 20 District Court judges.

Trump says in the Oval Office that he hasn't "really thought about that". "And hopefully we're going to pick somebody who will be as outstanding".

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