It’s likely to ignite another major battle over Trump’s chosen successor, although Republicans will be able to secure his confirmation with a simple Senate majority. Under threat of a Democratic filibuster of Neil Gorsuch, the GOP abandoned Senate rules to win confirmation with less than a 60-vote threshold.
Kennedy, nominated by President Ronald Reagan, has been on the court since 1987. Although he has been largely siding with conservatives this term, he has been regarded as a potential swing vote in a number of cases. He wrote the Supreme Court’s landmark 2015 ruling that led to the legalization of same-sex marriage across the country, and also sided with LGBT groups in other marriage equality cases.
“For a member of the legal profession it is the highest of honors to serve on this Court,” Kennedy wrote in a letter to President Donald Trump. “Please permit me by this letter to express my profound gratitude for having had the privilege to seek in each case how best to know, interpret and defend the Constitution and the laws that must always conform to its mandates and promises.”