FARGO, North Dakota (Reuters) - President Donald Trump said on Wednesday (June 27) he wants to pick a US Supreme Court nominee who will serve on the court for 40 to 45 years.
"We have to pick one that's there for 40 years, 45 years,"he told a rally in Fargo, North Dakota, hours after Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement.
Kennedy, who turns 82 in July and is the second-oldest justice on the nine-member court, has become one of the most consequential American jurists since joining the court in 1988 as an appointee of Republican President Ronald Reagan.
A traditional conservative, he advanced gay rights, buttressed abortion rights and erased political spending limits.
His retirement, which takes effect on July 31, gives Trump a second Supreme Court appointment in his 17 months in office after the Republican president last year selected Neil Gorsuch, who has already become one of the most conservative justices.
Kennedy, mild-mannered and professorial, sometimes joined the liberal justices on key rulings, earning a reputation as the court's "swing" vote who heartened conservatives and liberals alike, depending on the issue.
His retirement sets the stage for a major showdown in the Republican-led US Senate over the confirmation of Trump's eventual pick for the lifetime appointment to replace Kennedy and the future direction of the Supreme Court, all coming before crucial November elections in which Democrats are seeking to seize control of Congress from Trump's Republicans.
Brett Kavanaugh, a federal appeals court judge in Washington, was seen by some legal experts on Wednesday as the front-runner on President Trump's list of contenders to fill the vacancy left by Kennedy's retirement .
A person familiar with the White House selection process said 53-year-old Kavanaugh is at or near the top of Trump's list of possible nominees.
Kavanaugh was appointed to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 2003 by Republican President George W. Bush.
Contentious confirmation hearings in the Senate delayed his confirmation until 2006.
Kavanaugh worked for Bush during the recount of the 2000 presidential election results. He then headed the administration's search for potential judicial nominees. P
rior to that, he helped draft the "Starr report" recommending the impeachment of Democratic President Bill Clinton.
In a high-profile decision, Kavanaugh authored an opinion that said the design of the US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, created by Congress after the 2008 financial crisis to check abusive lending businesses, was unconstitutional and its director could be removed by the president.