Senators Donnelly and Young to review Supreme Court nominee

Indiana’s senators say they’ll closely review the qualifications of President Trump’s nominee to replace Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court.

Democrat Joe Donnelly and Republican Todd Young both voted for Trump’s first court appointment, Neil Gorsuch. They say Kennedy’s status as the court’s swing vote won’t affect the way they assess the next nominee. Both say they’ll review the nominee’s past writings, including any judicial opinions if the nominee is a judge.

Young adds he’ll be looking for someone faithful to the Constitution’s original meaning. Donnelly says he wants to see a judge whose writing reflects “common sense.”

Kennedy’s retirement sets up a high-stakes confirmation battle in the Senate, but one where Trump’s nominee starts with the advantage. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) denied a hearing in 2016 to Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s nominee for the vacancy eventually filled by Gorsuch, because it was an election year. Democratic leaders are demanding the same rule this time, but McConnell says he’ll forge ahead. Young says he expects a vote by the end of October, and hopes to seat a justice in time for the start of the court’s new term at the beginning of October.

Arizona Republican John McCain’s absence from the Senate as he fights brain cancer means Republicans have no votes to spare — without McCain, they control the Senate 50-49. Arizona’s other senator, Republican Jeff Flake, has said he’ll hold up lower-court nominations until he gets a vote on a proposal to require congressional approval of tariffs.

But Trump won’t need the 60-vote supermajority required to break a filibuster. Former Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) banned the filibuster for all judicial nominations except the Supreme Court when Democrats held the majority. When Republicans took the majority, they extended the rule to cover Supreme Court nominations as well, starting with Gorsuch.