WILKES-BARRE — U.S. Sen. Bob Casey said Thursday the effort to replace retiring U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy should wait until after the November midterm elections, but President Donald Trump wants to begin the process immediately.
“Majority Leader (Mitch) McConnell once said that ‘the American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice,’ so he should ensure that’s the case and follow his own rule,” Casey, D-Scranton, said. “The Senate should only consider this nomination when a new Senate is seated in January.”
On Wednesday, Trump said he would start the effort to replace Kennedy “immediately” and would pick from a list of 25 names that he updated last year. McConnell declared the Senate “will vote to confirm Justice Kennedy’s successor this fall.”
With Kennedy’s departure, Republicans have a longed-for opportunity to tip the balance of the court. It features four justices picked by Democratic presidents and four by Republicans, so Trump’s pick could shift the ideological balance toward conservatives for years to come.
“The Trump Administration has nominated many far-right judges who put the interests of big corporations ahead of justice and fairness for all Americans,” said Casey. “If an individual from the list provided to candidate Donald Trump by far-right organizations like the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society is nominated, then I am highly unlikely to support that nominee. Justices who sit on the most important court in the world should not be selected by corporate interests and extreme right organizations.”
Casey said in this term, the Supreme Court “has issued rulings that would decimate labor unions, deny many Americans their right to vote and allow partisan gerrymandering to continue.”
Casey is seeking his third six-year term in the Senate in November against Republican U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta of Hazleton.
Barletta said the vacancy on the Supreme Court is another example of why the U.S. Senate race in Pennsylvania is vital to the future of the country.
“One vote in the Senate can shape the balance of the Supreme Court and determine the direction of our country for a generation,” Barletta said. “As senator, I will support nominees to the United States federal courts who will protect and defend the Constitution.”
If Republicans unite behind Trump’s selection, there’s little Democrats can do to stop it. Republicans changed the Senate rules last year so that Supreme Court nominees cannot be filibustered, meaning only 51 votes will be required to confirm.
Currently, there are 51 Republicans in the Senate, 47 Democrats and two Independents.
Toomey: ‘Apply the law’
Pennsylvania’s other U.S. Senator, Pat Toomey, R-Lehigh Valley, also weighed in on the issue while thanking Justice Kennedy for his service.
“In the coming weeks, President Trump will announce a nominee to fill this vacancy on the Supreme Court. This person should be committed to the rule of law and ensuring everyone is treated fairly under it,” said Toomey. “Moreover, whoever is nominated should understand the proper role of a judge is to apply the law, including the U.S. Constitution, as written. I look forward to meeting with the president’s choice in the coming weeks.”
Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez said if there was ever any question if the November elections would be the most important of our lifetime, Justice Kennedy’s retirement should remove all doubt.
“Democrats and Republicans should reject any nominee who won’t uphold our Constitution and our basic human rights, and who would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade,” Perez said in an emailed statement. “We must make our voices heard at the ballot box for the millions of American families who are counting on us.”
Perez said the last Supreme Court vacancy “was brazenly stolen by shameless Republican leaders with no respect for American democracy.”
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle. The Associated Press contributed to this report.