May 26, 2018
Rumors have been flying around Washington that Justice Anthony Kennedy will announce his retirement from the Supreme Court shortly after the court's current term ends late in June. Whether he will or won't remains to be seen. But it would be no great surprise if he does.
For one thing, Justice Kennedy will turn 82 in July, making him the second oldest member of the court after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who's 85. Kennedy has served on the court since 1988, and in recent years has had the satisfaction of being its swing voter, exercising the power to determine the outcome in numerous closely divided cases.
If Kennedy does retire, there's sure to be a protracted, unusually ugly struggle in the Senate over confirming a successor. President Trump is committed to naming a prolife justice, as he did last year with Justice Neil Gorsuch. Then it will be up to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) to do all he can to get the successor confirmed before the November elections – that is, while Senate Republicans are still sure of a slim Senate majority.
By the same token, it will be up to Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) and his Democrats to work to prevent a confirmation vote before the election. And then – who knows? If the Democrats are in charge in the post-election Senate, it will be payback time for the Merrick Garland episode, which saw the confirmation of Barack Obama's last Supreme Court pick blocked by McConnell and the Republicans by the simple device of refusing to consider it.