That leaves a vacancy on the court for a Justice who will be more consistently conservative. (Kennedy, a Reagan nominee, was known for his tendency to swing left on lots of different issues.)
And as long as Republicans hold the Senate, which they will until the midterms in November, Trump’s pick to replace Kennedy has a clear path to successful confirmation. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, has said that R’s are ready to vote on a nominee in the fall. This makes sense; there’s no guarantee that Republicans will be able to hold their very thin majority in the Senate come the midterms.
So acting now to pick a new justice is smarter than waiting, and possibly having to kowtow to Democrat demands.
Democrats are, of course, kicking up quite a fuss to prevent the Republicans from choosing whomever they please as the next justice. Chuck Schumer, the leader of the Dems in the Senate, has called out Mitch McConnell for blocking Obama’s last Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, and refusing to hold a hearing for him at all.
Schumer says that, now that the precedent of not picking a new Justice in an election year has been set, it would be “the absolute height of hypocrisy” for Republicans to select a new Justice before the results of the midterm elections come through.
But, of course, UpChuck Schumer and the Senate Democrats have very little leverage at this time. In fact, several sitting Dem Senators are facing tough races in states that Trump won in 2016 (Joe Manchin in West Virginia is one.)
If the Republicans do force a vote, at least some of these at-risk Senators may have to vote for the nominee just to save their seats in the coming election. And even if every single Senate Dem voted against Trump’s eventual nominee, they’d still need at least one Republican defector to keep the nominee from being confirmed. (Though there are a few RINO Senators who might be willing to take a huge Soros payout in return for a betrayal of their fellow Americans.)
Regardless, some of the Dems whose seats are in danger may lose them. The Dems are defending 25 seats this year. Republicans are only defending 8. Democrats have much more to lose than Republicans, in other words. So even if Mitch McConnell agrees to play nice and wait for a Supreme Court vote until after the midterms, there’s a very good chance we’ll get another conservative Justice anyway.