While speaking with reporters Friday, Trump said he'll announce his next Supreme Court pick on July 9, Axios reports. The news comes days after Justice Anthony Kennedy announced that he'll be retiring later in the month, creating a vacancy on bench and giving Trump the second Supreme Court appointment of his presidency.
Trump told reporters on Air Force One that he's narrowed his choices down to five candidates, two of whom are women. He said that he will not ask his prospective picks how they feel about Roe v. Wade, which many believe the court could repeal if Trump's appointment is seated.
Although the president didn't say who's on his shortlist, he did note that Utah Sen. Mike Lee has been lobbying him for an appointment.
“He said he’d like the job,” Trump told reporters. “Usually they don’t say that.”
Shortly after Kennedy announced his retirement, Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that the Senate would hold hearings on Trump's pick in the fall — that is, before the midterm elections. This outraged many Democrats and progressives, who noted that McConnell refused to hold any hearings on Barack Obama's last Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, for almost a year in 2016. At the time, McConnell argued that it would be improper to confirm a Supreme Court justice during an election year.
McConnell attempted to justify treating Trump's appointees differently than Obama's in a Senate floor speech Thursday.
"This is not 2016," McConnell said. "There aren’t the final months of a second-term, constitutionally lame-duck presidency with a presidential election fast approaching. We're right in the middle of this president’s very first term."
In 2016, however, McConnell did not cite Obama's second-term or lame-duck status in explaining why he blocked Garland from having any hearings. After Trump won the election, Trump successfully appointed Neil Gorsuch to fill the vacancy instead, and many progressives and Democrats consider that seat stolen.
Gorsuch, a staunch conservative, replaced Antonin Scalia, another staunch conservative; as such, his appointment didn't shift the court's overall ideology. Kennedy, on the other hand, was the court's swing vote, and if Trump replaces him with another conservative jurist, as he's expected to do, the court's ideological center will shift significantly to the right.
Many on the left are furious at the prospect of Republican president who lost the popular vote by millions of ballots receiving two Supreme Court appointments in less than two years because a Republican Senate refused to hold hearings for the Democratic predecessor's nominee, and are proposing a radical response: Court-packing.
Court-packing is the (hypothetical) act of increasing the total number of seats on the Supreme Court in order to give an incumbent president more appointments and, by extension, the opportunity to shift the court in their preferred ideological direction. Such a plan would require Congressional approval, and it seems unlikely that even a Democratic-controlled Congress would pass such legislation.
However, many on the left argue that Democratic candidates for president should campaign on a court-packing plan nonetheless. They point to Franklin D. Roosevelt's attempt to pack the court in 1937: Although Roosevelt didn't succeed in actually increasing the number of Supreme Court justices, historians generally agree that the mere threat of packing the court convinced swing justices on the bench to uphold key pieces of Roosevelt's New Deal legislation, which had been under threat of being repealed. Many also note that Abraham Lincoln temporarily packed the court in 1863 to help ensure pro-Union forces rulings the Civil War.
Some Senate Democrats have argued, alternatively, that Trump's appointment shouldn't have hearings until Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation is over. Ultimately, though, Republicans control 52 seats in the Senate, making it unlikely that Trump's pick won't ultimately be confirmed.