WASHINGTON – Justice Anthony M. Kennedy's announcement of retirement was less than a day old when liberal activists demonstrated on Thursday at the Supreme Court stages and called on the names of two Republican senators who they believe will be the future of Roe v cheek in her hands.
"Remember Susan Collins, remember Lisa Murkowski!" Admonished Neera Tanden, president of the Liberal Center for American Progress, the crowd. "When they claim to make a choice, the decision is consistent with that decision."
Now with President Trump's promise to appoint a "pro-life" lawyer, who will be the one in charge retiring justice should replace Kennedy The senators are under pressure as never before. Similar to Justice Kennedy, they are swing votes – not in a court case, but in an upcoming confirmation battle that will shape the Supreme Court and American jurisdiction for generations to come.
The mathematics in the Senate tells the story. Republicans of Arizona, undergoing cancer treatment, have the thinnest majority with Senator John McCain, 50-49. If every Democrat votes against a Trump candidate, only a Republican apostate would block the affirmation. And since a filibuster is no longer an option, the Democrats are powerless to block a candidate himself.
Minutes after Justice Kennedy's announcement Wednesday, Democrats and their allies began to look at Mrs Collins and Mrs Murkowski] That was the White House. Ms. Collins and Ms. Murkowski were part of a bipartisan group of six senators who met with Mr. Trump on Thursday evening to speak about the court. Early Thursday, Ms. Collins said in an interview that she had received a call from the White House lawyer, Donald F. McGahn II, and that she urged him to look over the list of deeply conservative lawyers Mr. Trump has English: German: emagazine.credit-suisse.com/app/art … = 157 & lang = DE This is an important request, given that Senator Chuck Schumer from New York, the leader of the Democrats, has stated that the Democrats are not candidates for to support this office
. Schumer has also made it clear that he is the fate of Roe v. Wade, the groundbreaking decision of 1973, which established a constitutional right to abortion, would be at the heart of the Democrats' strategy to block any candidate they consider extreme. Mrs. Collins, who carefully selected her words, suggested that Roe intervene in her decision-making.
"I believe in precedents," she said. "In my opinion, Roe v. Wade is a valid law, and although I recognize that it is inappropriate to ask a candidate how he or she would rule in a future case, I would certainly ask what role they play in the precedent consider whether they considered Roe v. Wade lawful. "
Both Senators are aware that no matter what they choose, one side will be unhappy. Mrs. Murkowski admitted to feel the weight of the moment.
"There is pressure because of the severity of such a nomination," Ms. Murkowski told Politico. "I'm not going to suggest that my chance as a Senator in the consultation and consent process will somehow be shortened just because it's a Republican president and I'm a Republican."
Senator Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, framed the situation for Ms. Murkowski and Ms. Collins in this way: "This is an electoral vote, and very few Senate people, even those who have been here for a long time, become more important than
Liberal activists and Mr. Schumer have demanded that a candidate be confirmed only after the November election, but Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, has pledged a quick trial, with a confirmation vote from the case.
For Democrats, unified opposition will be difficult – especially in an election year, when 10 Senate Democrats are up for re-election in states won by Mr Trump. Three of these Democrats – Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, and Joe Manchin of West Virginia – voted in favor of Justice Neil M. Gorsuch last year. The same goes for Mrs. Collins and Mrs. Murkowski.
Since then, Justice Gorsuch has appeared as a consistent voice in the conservative bloc of the Supreme Court.
To say that the tensions in the Senate are high for Supreme Court candidates would be an understatement. The wounds of 2016 remain raw and open. The Democrats are still angry that the Republicans, led by Mr. McConnell, President Barack Obama's candidate, block Judge Merrick B. Garland of the Federal Appeals Court here by denying him a hearing – and giving Mr. Trump the opportunity, Justice Gorsuch to bring to justice
woman. Murkowski has then sided with the leadership. But Ms. Collins broke her ranks and called on Judge Garland for a hearing – a moment she remembered on Thursday. "This is not a pleasant situation," she said in reference to the Kennedy site. "But it's not strange for me."
Neither Ms Murkowski nor Ms Collins face re-election this year, which gives them some freedom of choice. Nevertheless, they will probably feel pressure at home. Eliza Townsend, executive director of Maine Women's Lobby, a women's rights group, said her organization intends to intensify her contacts with Ms. Collins.
"Maine people understand that this is for all marbles," she said. "This is a critical, critical moment."
Both Mr. Murkowski and Mrs. Collins have long been independent personalities in the Senate. In 2010, when Ms. Murkowski ran for reelection, she lost in a primary to a tea party Republican. Instead of bowing, she ran a writing campaign-a challenge for the voters who had to spell Murkowski-and won. The victory effectively freed them from party pressure.
wife. Collins has a reputation for working across the aisle. In 2013 she led an effort among Senate women, including Ms. Murkowski, to end the end of the government's abortion this year. As co-chair of a bipartisan group called the Common Sense Coalition, she helped again this year.
Last week, she helped unify two ideological opposites: Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, and Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, to work on immigration legislation.
Conservative advocates said Thursday they were confident they would confirm the president's election.
"We have seen from their explanations that both are very worried about one I think that's exactly what we're going to get: someone with whom they both are not happy, but very happy to vote for them," said Carrie Severino, Counsel and Policy Director of the Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative lobby group
After the Senate retired on July 4, Ms. Collins and Ms. Murkowski could take a break. But as soon as Mr. Trump nominates a candidate, the pressure will rise.
"These are two women who for many decades have been very clear that our constitutional law, which protects the most important right of the woman to privacy – her right to reproductive rights – is important to them," said Judith L. Lichtman, former president of the National Partnership for Women and Families and long-time lawyer for women's rights in Washington. "And now they have a chance to prove it."
Thomas Kaplan contributed reporting from Washington.