Vermont’s congressional delegation reacted with concern today over the announcement by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy that he will retire at the end of July.
Kennedy — seen as a moderate, swing vote on the court — will be replaced by a nominee chosen by President Donald Trump.
Sen. Patrick Leahy said Trump has made it clear that he intends to nominate a person who has a political agenda that mirrors his own, and the senator said making such a political appointment will damage the independent nature of the court.
Leahy serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will consider the eventual nominee, and he said many important issues could be overturned by a justice who meets Trump's litmus tests.
"I think what it means is consumers and workers — vulnerable Americans — will be set aside in favor of the wealthy and the powerful," Leahy told VPR. "Certainly a woman's right to choose would be gone, and I suspect the right to marry may be overturned in some states."
Leahy said the president should not nominate, nor should the Senate confirm, a candidate until after the November elections because that's the same process the Republicans used when the court had a vacancy late in President Barack Obama's last term in office.
In a statement, Sen. Bernie Sanders echoed the call that any nomination to replace Kennedy should wait until after the election. Sanders said he hopes Republicans will “oppose any nominee who would deny any woman the right to choose.”
Rep. Peter Welch released a brief written statement:
“Justice Kennedy’s retirement could cement a right wing court for a generation. All of us who care about civil rights, civil liberties, women’s rights, getting dark money out of politics and more should make our voices heard in any way we can. Immediately.”