Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy appears set to retire in 2018, giving President Donald Trump the opportunity to appoint a second judge to the country's top legal institution.
An NPR report on the voting record of Neil Gorsuch mentioned in passing that Kennedy has let applicants for the positions of his legal clerks know that he will likely retire by the October 2018 term.
The Washington Post noted that if Kennedy sticks to this timetable, Republicans would be able to appoint his successor prior to the mid-term elections in November 2018, ensuring that the GOP would still have a majority in the Senate.
But even if Kennedy waits a little longer, observers expect the Republicans to retain control of the Senate in 2018. Many Democrats are up for reelection in states which voted for Trump in 2016. Even if they all successfully defend their seats, Democrats would have to gain ground in traditionally Republican-dominated Texas.
Appointing a replacement for Kennedy is seen as significant because the 80-year-old currently serves as the swing vote on a court divided between conservative and liberal wings. Adding another Republican vote to the bench would see Justice John Roberts, who is considered more to the right than Kennedy, become the swing vote.
Speculation grew over recent weeks that Kennedy would retire this summer. This only increased when he brought forward a reunion planned for 2018 to June 24.
Trump said during a May interview that he had "heard the same rumors" about Kennedy's possible retirement, Newsweek reported. Republicans have allegedly already begun drawing up candidates to fill the vacant position.
During his election campaign, Trump suggested 21 potential candidates he would consider for the Supreme Court -- one of whom, Neil Gorsuch, he has already appointed.
Gorsuch has sided with conservative Justice Clarence Thomas in several opinions since taking his seat on the bench in April.
There are several high profile cases to be heard in the upcoming term of the Supreme Court.
In June, the court allowed Trump's ban on travel to the United States from six Muslim-majority countries to go into force temporarily. The case will be heard during the next term, beginning in October.
Another case will deal with the drawing of electoral boundaries in Wisconsin, while a third will tackle the issue of a baker who refused to prepare a wedding cake for a same-sex couple because he said it conflicted with his religious beliefs, PBS NewsHour reported.