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Democrats warn rights are ‘on the line’ in coming Supreme Court fight

A day after Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement, Democratic senators warned that the stakes could not be higher in the fight to replace him, and called for any nomination to wait until after the midterm elections. President Trump promised swift action in picking a Kennedy successor, who had been a swing vote on issues like abortion and LGBTQ rights. Judy Woodruff reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    There's no nominee yet, but the battle is already being joined over replacing Anthony Kennedy on the U.S. Supreme Court. The two sides went quickly to the ramparts today, with midterm elections just over five months away.

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.:

    I'm ready to fight. Are you ready to fight?


  • Judy Woodruff:

    Outside the Supreme Court this morning, Democratic senators warned the stakes could not be higher in the fight to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.:

    Women's access to safe legal abortion is on the line, marriage equality on the line, voting rights on the line.

  • Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J.:

    The menacing truth is that we have to face a reality coming at us where we might lose some of the most precious ideals of our country. And I stand here to say, this will not happen without a fight.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    President Trump promised quick action at a rally last night in North Dakota, hours after Kennedy announced he's retiring.

  • President Donald Trump:

    And I'm very honored that he chose to do it during my term in office because he felt confident in me to make the right choice and carry on his great legacy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Over the years, Kennedy joined court conservatives in rolling back campaign finance curbs and voting rights provisions. This week, he joined 5-4 majorities upholding President Trump's travel ban and against making non-union members pay fees to public employee unions.

    But Kennedy was also a swing vote, supporting abortion rights, as well as same-sex marriage. Now Democrats fear he will be replaced by a down-the-line conservative. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said today Republicans will support anyone from the president's list of 25 names.

  • Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.:

    The president's nominee should be considered fairly and not subjected to personal attacks. The ink wasn't even dry on Justice Kennedy's resignation letter before my friend the Democratic leader seemed to echo that right here on the floor, that none of the exceptional legal minds on this list would be tolerable to him.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But McConnell's challenge is preserving a razor-thin majority. Arizona Senator John McCain is battling cancer. Republican Susan Collins of Maine said today she will focus on deference to previous court rulings, especially Roe vs. Wade, the landmark decision that legalized abortion.

  • Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine:

    I do get a sense of whether they respect precedent. And from my perspective, Roe vs. Wade is important precedent and it is settled law.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said no precedent would be safe with another Trump nominee on the court.

  • Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.:

    President Trump said in his own words that he wants to appoint a justice to give the court a majority who will overturn Roe v. Wade.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Democrats are calling for any nomination to wait until after the midterm elections in November.

    We will return to the looming confirmation fight and look at the Supreme Court's record in the term just ended after the news summary.

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