U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took to the Senate floor Wednesday to announce that the chamber will consider President Trump’s replacement for retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in the fall.
“The Senate stands ready to fulfill its constitutional role by offering advice and consent on President Trump’s nominee to fill the vacancy,” McConnell said.
But the Kentucky Republican also offered a warning for those who might try to interfere with or prejudge the president’s eventual selection.
“It’s imperative that the president’s nominee be considered fairly and not subjected to personal attacks,” McConnell said in his short speech. “
Commentators and journalists pointed out that McConnell held open Justice Antonin Scalia's Supreme Court seat pending the results of the 2016 presidential election, even though President Barack Obama appointed Judge Merrick Garland to fill the seat.
Garland was nominated in March 2016, more than 230 days before the 2016 presidential election in November.
“Our view is this: Give the people a voice in the filling of this vacancy,” McConnell said at the time.
Justice Kennedy's retirement comes just over 130 days before the 2018 midterm elections.
McConnell also thanked Kennedy for his years of service on the bench, singling out his “ardent defense of the first amendment and the first amendment’s right to political speech” for praise.
Kennedy, a swing vote on the nation’s highest court, will take senior status on July 31, the court announced Wednesday.
His retirement offers Trump the opportunity to move the court to the right for years to come. He served on the federal bench for more than four decades, McConnell said.
McConnell also took the opportunity to praise Trump’s other federal court picks.
“Thus far, President Trump’s judicial nominations have reflected a keen understanding of the vital roles that justices play in our constitutional order,” McConnell said. “We’ll look forward to yet another outstanding selection.”
Shortly after McConnell left the floor, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer responded with a speech of his own, calling the vacancy “the most important … in at least a generation.”
Schumer accused McConnell of hypocrisy for promising to consider Trump’s nomination this fall.
“Our Republican colleagues in the Senate should follow the rule they set in 2016, not to consider a Supreme Court Justice in an election year,” the New York Democrat said. “Millions of people are just months away from determining the senators who should vote to confirm or reject the president’s nominee, and their voices deserve to be heard now as Leader McConnell thought they should deserve to be heard” in 2016.