Prepare yourselves for weeks of stories about the soon-to-be vacant Supreme Court seat currently held by retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy. To help, we offer a running start — a compilation of current information on the who, what and when of it all.
When does the vacancy open? July 31. That is when Kennedy leaves the high court, per his retirement announcement.
When will we know the nominee to replace him? By July 9. That is the date President Donald Trump has given for his announcement of a nominee. It is possible the choice could leak before then.
When will hearings happen? And a final vote? We don’t know yet, but we have a few inklings. Here’s how the process will play out:
- First, there is a real push by Republicans to try to seat this nominee in time for the court’s October session.
- Second, there is also a push to start the nomination hearings in August, as the Senate has already planned to stay in session that month.
- Third, history helps (as does the Congressional Research Service). Among recent nominees, the fastest to proceed was Sonia Sotomayor, whose committee hearings began 42 days after her nomination was announced. Applying that recent record to our current timeline, 42 days from July 9 is August 20.
- Our bet? Look at that last week in August for the hearings to start.
- Final vote? It generally takes place within a week or two of the hearings. September is a prime contender.
- This will all take longer if: The president chooses either a particularly controversial nominee or one who has never served on a federal bench. Nominees who are appeals court judges have already been confirmed by the Senate at least once and previously had to prepare the mountain of paperwork that goes with the process. A non-judge would start that process from scratch.
On the short list (with links to stories about each): Appeals Court judges Amy Coney Barrett, Thomas Hardiman, Brett Kavanaugh, Raymond Kethledge, Joan Larsen and Amul Thapar. And possibly, possibly, Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee.
Who are the key Senate votes? Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who have pushed back against attempts to overturn Roe v. Wade. Other key votes include Democratic Sens. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who all voted for Neil Gorsuch in 2017 and face tough re-elections in November.
The next nominee likely needs at least two of those five senators to vote yes. (If four or more of that group vote no, the nominee is sunk.)