On Wednesday U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced that he is retiring effective July 31. Concerning the implications of Kennedy’s retirement, we wrote yesterday:
“Kennedy’s retirement effective essentially immediately means that the dysfunctional president and dysfunctional Republican-led Senate have to hustle to get a Supreme Court justice confirmed before the next term begins in October. Kennedy was a Reagan appointee, so his replacement won’t change the makeup of the court, but it will cement a 5-4 conservative majority for the foreseeable future.”
Most at risk with Kennedy’s retirement and a more conservative Court going forward may be abortion rights.
Shortly after Kennedy announced his retirement on Wednesday, moderate Republican Senator Susan Collins from Maine said that in her opinion, Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that legalized abortion across the U.S., is “settled law.”
“I view Roe v. Wade as being settled law,” she said. “It’s clearly precedent. I always look for judges who respect precedent.”
Women’s rights advocates throughout the country are also hoping that the conservative Supreme Court justices will “respect precedent” but they are not too sure this will happen in a future Court.
As a result, Democrats in the Senate are hoping to make sure Kennedy’s replacement will support abortion rights, and are looking to Collins and Senator Lisa Murkowski from Alaska as potential allies. Both senators are moderates and both support abortion rights. Democrats hope to enlist their backing to fight an extreme Trump nominee who would threaten abortion rights and possibly attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer gave a speech on Wednesday and said that the Senate should reject any Supreme Court nominee put forth by President Donald Trump who would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade or “undermine healthcare protections.”
“People from all across America should realize that their rights and opportunities are threatened,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “Nothing less than the fate of our health care system, reproductive rights for women, and countless other protections for middle class Americans are at stake.”
“Will Republicans and President Trump nominate and vote for someone who will preserve protections for people with pre-existing conditions, or will they support a justice who will put health insurance companies over patients, or put the federal government between a woman and her doctor,” Schumer said.”
Both Collins and Murkowski have bucked their party’s leadership on critical issues that came before the Senate, including repeal of the Affordable Care Act. And since Justice Kennedy was the swing vote on many hot-button issues, including abortion rights, his replacement will probably make the Court more conservative. As a result, the fight over confirmation of Trump’s eventual nominee will be fierce and bitter, and Collins and Murkowski are sure to play critical roles.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.