"It's extremely likely President Trump is going to appoint someone who is not going to follow Justice Kennedy's lead in those cases and will go even further in undermining constitutional rights and degrading the rule of law", said Elizabeth Wydra, president of the liberal leaning Constitutional Accountability Center.
Kennedy cast decisive votes backing gay rights on four occasions, most notably in 2015 when the court legalized same-sex marriage.
Now, with the retirement of Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy on Wednesday, the true magnitude of Trump's victory has come into clearer focus than ever before.
Trump told reporters he planned to begin interviewing possible candidates Monday but he may meet with some over the weekend in New Jersey, saying that "It's a great group of intellectual talent".
Kennedy informed his colleagues of his plans, then went to the White House to meet with Trump, where the president said they talked for half an hour about a potential successor and other topics.
Trump announced he would nominate a replacement from a standing list of 25 possibilities, presumably the list he published in November 2017. Also potential replacements: Thomas Hardiman of Pennsylvania, who serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, and Raymond Kethledge of MI, who serves on the 6th Circuit.
Trump spoke Wednesday shortly after Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement.
Kennedy has always been considered the swing vote on the court between the liberal and conservative justices.
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"Political speeches are just that, but the next day, I'm ready to get to work", Heitkamp said in a statement following a private meeting with the president. Asked about Barrett, he said, "She's an outstanding woman".
Trump also called the decision "profound vindication following months of hysterical commentary from the media and Democratic politicians who refuse to do what it takes to secure our border and our country".
Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah isn't among the leading candidates, the person said. "I actually saw him on television last night where he said he'd love the job".
His executive orders on the subject were challenged by the state of Hawaii and other states which said that the Trump's anti-Muslim comments showed that his policy was rooted in an animus toward Muslim people. He met Thursday with key Republican and Democratic senators at the White House in the evening to discuss the vacancy.
Republicans changed Senate rules previous year to get Trump's conservative nominee, Neil Gorsuch, confirmed, lowering the threshold to advance Supreme Court nominations to a simple majority vote.
McConnell refused to act on Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland, and the seat was left open until after the 2016 presidential election, allowing Trump to nominate Justice Neil Gorsuch.
Says the Kentucky Republican, "It's imperative that the president's nominee be considered fairly and not subjected to personal attacks".
He is the second oldest justice on the nine-member court. "What we're seeing here is Gorsuch 2.0".