With a Supreme Court vacancy to fill, who will Donald Trump pick?

Johnson County Clerk Vicki Edelman gives results from the election Tuesday night

It had nothing to do with the supposed principle that vacancies shouldn't be filled in an election year and everything to do with influencing how the court would rule on politically charged issues (for the Republicans, that meant gun-control laws in particular).

Malcolm wrote an open letter to the presidential candidates earlier this year recommending "constitutionalist" nominees to the Supreme Court, judges who hold the same ideology as Scalia, one that calls for limits on the authority of government.

This brings us back to the original choice facing Republicans if Clinton wins and Republicans lose their Senate majority: allow Garland to be confirmed this year or trigger a fight in 2017 that will nearly certainly end with a more liberal justice on the Court, and perhaps also with the death of one of the most powerful parliamentary tools available to the minority party.

Senate Republicans refused to give a hearing to Merrick Garland, President Obama's pick to replace Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Trump said he'd choose from among them and others who are also conservatives in filling Scalia's seat.

Voters in Kansas on Tuesday retained five justices on the state supreme court, despite a push to oust four of them by a victims' rights group. Moderate conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy is 80. "I think Marco Rubio will run ahead of Trump but their fates in many ways are tied together".

"A lot of the big things are actually ones on which the court already has a so-called liberal majority", Neal Katyal, the acting solicitor general under President Barack Obama, said before the court's term began last month.

If Ginsburg and Breyer, who appears healthy and has shown no sign of retiring, do not leave the court anytime soon, Trump may not have many chances to shift the court further to the right.

"That'll happen automatically, in my opinion, because I am putting pro-life justices on the court", Trump said.

Much of Justice Kennedy's constitutional record is based upon his strong commitment to the idea that the most important value is the protection of human liberty, and that has led him to join in some of the court's most far-reaching human rights decisions. Two of the justices on the court were confirmed without reaching 60 votes.

Abortion-rights advocates immediately sounded an alarm.

"President-elect Trump has publicly pledged to overturn Roe and promised punishment for the one in three American women who will have an abortion in her lifetime", said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights.

As it stands the judges are balanced between liberal and conservative politics. If Clinton wins and Democrats take the senate, the current Republican senate could quickly confirm Garland during the lame duck period over concerns Clinton could come back with an even more liberal nominee once inaugurated. The move brought charges that McConnell had politicized the process, but the gambit worked: It will now be a Republican president making the lifetime appointment to replace Scalia.

But the list also included some - like Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett, with a well-known Twitter account - who could dramatically alter the style and spirit of the court.

And with the court's two senior liberal members fairly old, that might only be the start. In the eight years of the Obama administration, the court's conservatives have demonstrated an unusual and deep suspicion about executive power, while the court's liberals have shown relative deference.

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