Political fight swiftly accelerates over Supreme Court vacancy

The decision on Wednesday of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy to retire quickly set off a political firestorm on Capitol Hill, as Republicans vowed quick hearings and a vote by fall, and Democratic groups raised ominous questions about President Donald Trump's list of 25 judges under consideration for the spot on the Court.

"The Senate should not consider ANY Supreme Court nominee until after the midterm elections," said Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) on Thursday morning, as Democrats still burn with anger over Republicans blocking the final nominee of President Barack Obama before the 2016 elections.

While Democrats grit their teeth, for GOP lawmakers, Kennedy's retirement is an amazing political opportunity for President Trump to be able to cement a conservative majority on the Supreme Court, for years to come.

"To prevent the Constitution from becoming fleetingly ever-changing and meaningless, we need to get the right Supreme Court Justice on the bench," said Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV).

At a campaign rally in Fargo, North Dakota on Wednesday night, the President made clear the importance of the fight over Kennedy's Supreme Court seat, and how his replacement could have a dramatic impact in the future.

"We have to pick one that's going to be there for 40, 45 years," Mr. Trump said of his next choice for the U.S. Supreme Court, as he praised Kennedy for his over 30 years on the Court.

"I'm very honored that he chose to do it during my term in office, because he felt confident in me to make the right choice and carry on his great legacy," Mr. Trump added, as the President urged voters to knock off Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND).

Ironically - Heitkamp had voted for Mr. Trump's first Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch.

Democrats vowed to fully vet any choice made by the President.

"I’m calling on everyone to make sure that the next person who sits on the Supreme Court bases their decisions on law, the facts, precedent, and overall upholding the Constitution and American values we all share," said Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI).

But with a filibuster no longer allowed against Supreme Court nominations, the only way Democrats could block a nomination by Mr. Trump was if a Republican breaks ranks with the President, as critics of the Trump Administration openly worried about a Court without Justice Kennedy.

"I’m worried about Roe v. Wade," said Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR).

In terms of history, Democrats have had little direct impact on the U.S. Supreme Court in the past fifty years, as their party has placed only four people on the Court since Thurgood Marshall was nominated by President Lyndon Johnson in 1967.

Those four Democratic picks - Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor, were chosen by Presidents Clinton and Obama. President Carter had no vacancy arise during his one term in office.

During the same period, Republican Presidents have put 14 Justices on the Supreme Court.

This would be 15 for President Trump.

"We have a very excellent list of great talent," the President said of his 25 names.

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