Legal observers on both the left and the right said Thursday if Senate Republicans stay unified, then Democrats will be unable to block President Trump’s nominee to replace retired Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.
But will the 51 GOP senators stick together to form a narrow majority in the 100-seat chamber? Republicans could fail to lose one vote – with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a 50-50 tie – but a loss of two votes would doom the confirmation.
The two most likely GOP senators to flip could be Maine Sen. Susan Collins and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski -- two women who are pro-choice on abortion and who could be hesitant to confirm a nominee who may vote to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide. Kennedy was pro-Roe and part of a five-vote bloc that backed legalized abortion.
“I view Roe v. Wade as being settled law,” Collins said Tuesday, according to CBS News. “It's clearly precedent. I always look for judges who respect precedent.”
Could Collins back a justice who opposes Roe?
“I always look at judicial temperament, qualifications, experience, the ABA [American Bar Association] rating and their respect for the rule of law and the constitution,” Collins said. “Those are exactly the same criteria that I will apply to whomever the president nominates.”
Collins and Murkowski last year backed Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch.
Murkowski was making no promises Tuesday.
“My standards for Supreme Court nominees are extremely high,” Murkowski said. “It is my longstanding practice to carefully scrutinize the qualifications of judicial nominees and to cast an independent vote when judicial nominations come before the Senate. There is no doubt that the President’s nominee to succeed Justice Kennedy can expect exacting scrutiny from the Senate and that is the standard I will apply in evaluating the nominee.”
Collins and Murkowski were the only Republicans to vote against a motion on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would have banned abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Christian leaders said the opportunity to reshape the court was historic.
“This vacancy on our nation's highest court is a critical one,” Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, told Baptist Press. “As Justice Anthony Kennedy leaves the bench, he leaves what I see to be a mixed legacy. On the one hand, he was an important voice on high-profile cases involving religious liberty and free speech. But at the same time, he persistently denied justice to unborn children and authored the disastrous Obergefell decision [that legalized same-sex marriage].
“I'm praying that the next associate justice will be fully committed to life, family, religious liberty, and human dignity,” Moore added.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said Kennedy’s retirement will “turbo charge this fall’s election.”
“In a closely divided U.S. Senate, every vote matters,” Perkins said. “If values voters needed a reason to engage in this election cycle – they certainly have it now. The American people are looking for yet another Supreme Court nominee in the mold of Justice Scalia as President Trump promised and delivered in Justice Gorsuch.
“We are confident the president will choose a justice who simply decides the cases before them, as the Constitution intends.” Perkins said.
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com.
Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstockphotos.com
Publication date: June 28, 2018