Justice Anthony Kennedy announces he will retire: Trump gets another pick for Supreme Court

Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy has announced he will retire. Kennedy notified President Trump in a letter Wednesday, telling him that effective July 31, he would "end my regular active status as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, while continuing to serve in a senior status."

Kennedy called it the "highest of honors to serve on this Court," and he expressed his "profound gratitude for having had the privilege to seek in each case how best to know, interpret, and defend the Constitution and the laws that must always conform to its mandates and promises."


Trump, reacting to the news, called Kennedy a "great justice" and said he'd begin the search for a replacement immediately.

Arguably the most powerful member of the Supreme Court, Kennedy's moderate-conservative views often left him the "swing" -- or deciding -- vote in hot-button cases ranging from abortion to gay rights to political campaign spending.

A Supreme Court vacancy will likely become a key issue in a midterm congressional election year, when control of the Senate is at stake.

That body will consider Trump's latest high court nominee, requiring only a simple majority for confirmation. GOP leaders changed the rules when Gorsuch was being considered, to get rid of the 60-vote procedural filibuster threshold.

But Democrats are expected to try and transform the court opening into a broader political referendum on Trump's leadership, and the future of social issues like immigration, gun rights and race. 

Republicans, for their part, hope Kennedy's replacement helps them in the November elections.

Kennedy was nominated to the court by President Ronald Reagan in 1987 and sworn in the following year.

While often voting with the court’s conservative bloc, he has been a key swing vote in a number of cases and occasionally sided with the court’s liberal wing, particularly on issues such a gay rights an abortion. Most notably, he wrote the 2015 ruling on Obergefell v Hodges, which found that a ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.

His retirement had been rumored in recent years, with several of his former clerks having said they thought he was considering stepping down.

While it is not clear whom Trump will nominate, the eventual nominee is likely to face resistance from Senate Democrats -- who are still bristling from Senate Republicans’ blockade of Obama-pick Merrick Garland in 2016 and would balk at the possibility of Trump hardening the conservative bloc on the court.

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