Senator Grassley not expecting imminent
Supreme Court vacancy
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[August 12, 2017]
By Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The head of the U.S.
Senate committee that handles Supreme Court nominees said on Friday he
no longer expected an imminent court vacancy, bolstering assumptions
that Justice Anthony Kennedy would not retire this year.
Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Judiciary Committee,
said expectations earlier this year of a vacancy on the nine-member
bench had evaporated.
"Evidently that's not going to happen," Grassley said in a telephone
interview from his home state of Iowa during the Senate's summer break.
"I don't have any expectation we will have a vacancy as I thought there
would be" earlier this year.
There had been speculation in the spring that Kennedy, a conservative
justice who turned 81 last month and has served on the court since 1988,
was considering retirement. Kennedy is the regular swing vote on the
high court, sometimes siding with the four liberal justices in major
A court vacancy would give Republican President Donald Trump a chance to
appoint a second conservative justice to the high court since taking
office in January.
But court watchers expect Trump to nominate a jurist who is more likely
to consistently decide cases with the conservative wing of the court,
In the interview on Friday, Grassley noted that every year there is
speculation that a justice might retire during the summer at the end of
the court's session.
He declined to give details on the "rumors" he had heard earlier this
year about an impending vacancy. Grassley added that such talk is often
stoked when there are justices in their 70s and 80s serving on the
Besides Kennedy, 81, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 84 and Stephen Breyer will
turn 79 next week.
Rumors that Kennedy was set to retire reached a fever pitch several
months ago after some of his former judicial clerks said he was
[to top of second column]
Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) asks a question during a Judiciary
Committee hearing into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election
on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 26, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P.
But Kennedy did not announce his retirement at a weekend reunion in
June with many of the former clerks. He also did not make an
announcement after the court's rulings marking the end of its term
on June 26.
His silence on the matter tamped down the rumors and led to a broad
assumption that he would remain on the court, at least for the
coming term, which begins in October. Kennedy, like all the other
justices, was also assigned responsibility on June 27 to handle
applications from a specific regional appeals court, further
reducing speculation over his retirement.
Earlier this year, Trump won Senate confirmation of conservative
Justice Neil Gorsuch.
Gorsuch arrived on the high court more than a year after the death
of Justice Antonin Scalia, who had been a leading conservative
voice. The Republican-led Senate in 2016 refused to consider
then-President Barack Obama's nomination of federal judge Merrick
Garland to fill the vacancy created by Scalia's death.
Garland would have tipped the court in a more liberal direction.
(Reporting by Richard Cowan; additional reporting by Andrew Chung in
New York; Editing by Will Dunham and Andrew Hay)
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