Justice Kennedy, who turns 82 in July and is the second-oldest justice on the nine-member court, has become one of the most consequential United States jurists since joining the court in 1988 as an appointee of Republican President Ronald Reagan.
Trump also said he's looking to replace Kennedy with someone who will spend four decades on the Supreme Court. Trump himself took the unusual step of publicly releasing a list of Supreme Court candidates, most of whom were traditional jurists that many Republicans believed would uphold conservative values. President Trump and Republicans say they plan on getting to work on a replacement immediately hoping to have Kennedy's successor confirmed before the midterms.
But Republican Senator John McCain, who has an aggressive form of brain cancer, has been absent from the Senate for months, meaning that if all Senate Democrats vote against Trump's eventual nominee, it would take only one Republican defection to defeat his pick. The court's conservative majority asserted itself on Trump's travel ban, worker rights, voting rights and religious freedom. "And that will happen automatically in my opinion, because I am putting pro-life justices on the court".
He was among several senators who met Thursday with Trump at the White House.
Kennedy personally delivered his retirement letter to the White House on Wednesday afternoon, after he told his fellow justices of his plans.
Trump said he would make his announcement on July 9, the day before he is scheduled to leave on a presidential trip to Europe.
"Anything that we can do to soften the blow of Roe v. Wade or weaken it or dilute it, it's up to us to do that", said Lawrence Bagley, a Louisiana Republican state representative. Among the issues now in the courts are Arkansas' regulation of abortion pills and a Kentucky law that would ban a common procedure for second-trimester abortions. Matt Mackowiak, a Republican strategist, said it was still far too early to know how the court nominating process would play out.
Trump has already spoken with many candidates on his list, and will likely interview the finalists again, officials said. Other states, including MS and Louisiana, have banned abortion at 15 weeks' gestation, and others have prohibited specific methods. "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".
The fact that the law faces a state challenge hasn't convinced some of its supporters that it won't make it to the Supreme Court, however.
The president said he was not intending to ask candidates about their positions on Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion rights case that the court decided in 1973.
Schumer said it would be "the absolute height of hypocrisy" for the Senate to move forward with confirming Trump's pick during an election year after using the 2016 election as the rationale for refusing to act on Garland.
There are ten Democratic senators up for re-election in 2018 in states that Trump won in 2016.
"What I most liked about Justice Kennedy is he did not identify with any ideological bloc on the court but rather was a justice who evaluated every case, not ideologically, but based on its merits and adherence to the law and the Constitution", Collins said.