WASHINGTON — Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement Wednesday, giving President Donald Trump and Senate Republicans yet another opportunity to pick a conservative to sit on the high court for a term which could last for decades.
Kennedy's departure was announced Wednesday morning after the justices released the final decisions of the court's current term.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 27, 2018
Few justices have lasted as long as Kennedy in the history of the high court. At 81 years old, the Ronald Reagan appointee has served on the high court for 30 years.
"It has been the greatest honor and privilege to serve our nation in the federal judiciary for 43 years, 30 of those on the Supreme Court," Kennedy said in a statement.
He is the swing vote on issues ranging from abortion and affirmative action to gay rights and capital punishment. Kennedy often sided with the court's more liberal justices.
Meanwhile, Democrats and liberals are likely unhappy with the news but don't have the votes to put up much of a fight. Many are still angry over Republicans' refusal to hold a confirmation hearing or vote on Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama's nominee to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
Penny Nance, CEO and president of Concerned Women for America (CWA), celebrated the news of Kennedy's retirement.
"This is the moment conservative women have been waiting for — the chance to return justice and constitutional limits to the nation's highest court," she said. "This is the reason why they voted overwhelmingly for Donald J. Trump over Hillary Clinton."
"We want a Supreme Court that rejects the subjective 'living, breathing' constitutional philosophy which judicial activist have used to force liberal political policies on the country under the guise of law," she continued.
"This is why 81 percent of evangelical women voted for President Trump," she reiterated. "He was clear from the beginning on the credentials and judicial philosophy he would require of any of his appointees to both the high and lower courts. He has delivered on that promise like no other president in history."
Catherine Glenn Foster, president and CEO of the leading pro-life advocacy group Americans United for Life (AUL), was also ecstatic.
"Now that Justice Anthony Kennedy — a 25-year defender of abortion on the Supreme Court and the key vote to perpetuate Roe v. Wade — is retiring, we urge President Trump to nominate a committed constitutionalist to the Supreme Court who will hew to the intended meaning of the nation's charter and refrain from employing it as a means of social engineering," she wrote in a statement.
Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, president and CEO of National Religious Broadcasters, echoed that sentiment, saying, “This week’s 5-4 decisions are a vivid reminder that we must have Supreme Court justices who honor the values of life and liberty at the very core of our Republic.”
"Free speech and religious liberty hang in the balance, and those values would have suffered dearly if Justice Gorsuch had not been on the bench,” he said. “I urge President Trump to nominate a Constitution-honoring individual in the mold of Justice Scalia once again, and for the Senate to confirm him or her quickly.”
President Trump, who noted Kennedy has "been a great justice of the Supreme Court," has already crafted a short list of 25 candidates in the event of an opening. Each prospective nominee would likely shift the ideological balance of the court even farther to the right for decades.
"Hopefully, we will pick someone who is just as outstanding," said Trump, who noted the replacement process will "begin immediately."