Schumer noted that Senate Republicans in 2016 refused to consider then-President Barack Obama's court nominee, Merrick Garland, during the election year, leaving the seat vacant for President Donald Trump's nominee of Neil Gorsuch in 2017. The Supreme Court opted not to intervene in a case challenging that law in May, saying it would wait for lower courts to rule, but the issue is likely to return to the court in coming years.
Mr Kennedy, who is the second-oldest justice on the nine-member US Supreme Court, earned a reputation as a swing vote conservative who supported liberal arguments on key decisions, including the 5-4 rulings that decided same-sex marriage and upheld abortion rights.
Ms. Perry, who got to know Justice Kennedy during a year studying the Supreme Court in the 1990s, said his moderation will be particularly missed.
Trump said earlier Wednesday that he'd choose a nominee from a short list of 25 previously announced candidates.
In 2017, Trump nominated and won confirmation of former Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Neil Gorsuch, a conservative jurist who replaced Scalia and played a key role in several important decisions this term, including those upholding Trump's travel ban on immigrants from several countries, most of which are majority Muslim, on national security grounds, and finding that public employees can not be forced to pay agency dues to unions they do not belong to but bargain collectively on their behalf. "It's one of most important things we can do".
In Trump's first year in office the Senate rejected the eradication of the Affordable Care Act and the Federal Court blocked his ban on people from several Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.
"The significance of today's news can not be overstated: The right to access abortion in this country is on the line", said Dawn Laguens, the group's executive vice president.More news: Republicans aim to debate immigration bill next week, ignoring Trump plea
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Yet Democrats are powerless to stop a Trump nominee without help from Republicans, since it only takes a majority vote to navigate the procedural hurdles in the confirmation process. Planned Parenthood Federation of America, a nationwide abortion provider, said it was bracing for Trump to appoint a justice to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Republicans now hold a bare 51-49 majority in the Senate, although that includes the ailing Sen.
Kennedy, 81, said Wednesday that he'd step down from the bench on July 31 after serving three decades since his appointment by President Ronald Reagan in 1988.
He voted conservative on issues of campaign finance, voting rights and gun rights.
"During his tenure on the Court, he authored landmark opinions in every significant area of constitutional law, most notably on equal protection under the law, the separation of powers, and the First Amendment's guarantees of freedom of speech and religion", the White House said in a statement.
He called Kennedy a "spectacular man" with "tremendous heart" and said he hoped to pick somebody who will be as "outstanding" as Kennedy has been. Justice Kennedy co-wrote the decision in a 1992 case, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, that reaffirmed abortion rights and pushed back against state attempts to restrict them.
"His words have left an indelible mark not only on this generation, but on the fabric of American history".