TrumpWatch, Day 524: Trump’s Supreme Court Opportunity

Donald Trump greets Justice Anthony Kennedy after addressing a joint session of Congress, February 28, ,2017 (Getty)

Trump Administration wants to rush through a nominee for confirmation, but Democrats likely to opposed, citing 2016 GOP tactic


Developments on Day 524 of the Trump Administration:

See also Immigration Latest: Children as Young as 3 in Court for Deportation Hearings


Donald Trump has an opportunity to buttress a conservative Supreme Court, with Justice Anthony Kennedy announcing that he will soon retire.

Kennedy, 81, has been seen as a vote on the polarized nine-justice Court. He backed moderate views on gay rights, abortion, and the death penalty but supported conservatives to curb voting rights, block gun control measures, and prevent restrictions on campaign spending by corporations. Kennedy also joined the 5-4 majority in December 2000 to give the Presidency to George W. Bush in the disputed contest with Democrat Al Gore.

On Tuesday, Kennedy provided the crucial vote in a 5-4 decision to uphold Trump’s “Muslim Ban” blocking entry to the US for citizens of five mainly-Muslim countries, as well as those of North Korea and some people from Venezuela.

See Developing: Supreme Court Upholds Trump’s “Muslim Ban”

Trump and his allies have vowed to entrench a conservative court which could push back further on social issues, including possibly restricting freedom of choice over abortion.

But they will face opposition from Democrats over any attempt to confirm a replacement for Kennedy before November’s mid-term elections. The Democratic Party is hoping to claim a majority in the Senate, which would allow to block any appointment which they oppose.

Republicans have a difficult case arguing for speedy confirmation, as the GOP spent almost a year preventing a confirmation vote on Judge Merrick Garland to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February 2016. GOP Congressional leaders said the process in an election year was unacceptable.

The Trump Administration quickly moved to fill the seat with Justice Neil Gorsuch, one of the five-member majority in the “Muslim Ban” ruling. In November 2017, it published a list of 25 people who could be the next Justice.

Trump reacted on Wednesday:

At a North Dakota rally in the evening, he called Justice Kennedy a “special guy” and a “star”, and said that he would find a replacement with “intellect” who would last for several decades.

Ironically, Trump has been trying to suspend legal process for undocumented immigrants, amid his policy detaining children separated from border-crossing parents. He has also repeatedly insulted judges who issued rulings that he disliked.


Hardline GOP Immigration Bill Suffers Heavy Defeat

The Trump Administration’s hardline anti-immigration approach has been rejected by the House of Representatives in the heavy defeat of a GOP bill with many of the Administration’s demands.

The “Goodlatte II” bill, named after its proposer Rep. Bob Goodlatte, was rejected 121-301. More than 100 Republicans joined Democrats in opposition.

The bill was meant as a compromise between hardliners behind the original Goodlatte bill and a moderate proposal, but the Republicans feuded over provisions such as the denial of a path to citizenship for about 800,000 “Dreamers”, undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children with their parents. The bill also including $25 billion funding of Trump’s Wall with Mexico and a crackdown on undocumented immigrants.

In an All Caps tweet, Trump had urged Republicans to unite and pass the legislation:

Scott Lucas is Professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham and editor-in-chief of EA WorldView. He is a specialist in US and British foreign policy and international relations, especially the Middle East and Iran. Formerly he worked as a journalist in the US, writing for newspapers including the Guardian and The Independent and was an essayist for The New Statesman before he founded EA WorldView in November 2008.

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