Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement announcement Wednesday set up another bitter battle in the Senate months before critical midterm elections.
Following Kennedy's announcement, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate "will vote to confirm Justice Kennedy's successor this fall." Senate Republicans plan to move quickly before November's midterm elections.
Though Democrats face a daunting Senate electoral map, they have an outside chance of gaining enough seats to take a majority in the chamber. It would give them the ability to block President Donald Trump's nominees to the top court and potentially force him to pick a more moderate justice. The GOP currently holds 51 of 100 seats in the chamber, and did away with the 60-vote precedent for Supreme Court judges in order to confirm Justice Neil Gorsuch last year.
Key Senate Democrats swiftly urged McConnell not to hold a vote on confirmation until after the midterms. They cited the Kentucky Republican's decision to block then-President Barack Obama's nominee for the seat vacated by Justice Antonin Scalia's death until after the 2016 presidential election. The gambit paid off, as Trump won the presidency and nominated the conservative Gorsuch, who has already had a meaningful effect on the court's decisions.