NEW YORK – Texas Sen. Ted Cruz predicted Friday that conservative Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch will have a "positive influence" over the next year on Justice Anthony Kennedy, a moderate voice on the bench who became the deciding vote on several major cases during the Obama administration.
"There are some big cases next term and, as has been the case the last few times, those cases are likely to hinge on where Justice Kennedy goes," Cruz told a roomful of conservative donors at a Koch Network event in Manhattan.
"It matters that Gorsuch is there," the Texas Republican said, noting that the newest justice clerked for Kennedy in the early '90s. "I think the most important influence of Gorsuch being there the next year is whether he can have a positive influence on Kennedy's vote."
Cruz continued, "Many people think this is Kennedy's last year on the bench and how he votes this year will matter. And I think Gorsuch may play a very key role in determining that."
Kennedy, 81, whom many expect to retire next summer, served as a swing vote on a host of high-profile cases during the Obama administration, including those that weighed the constitutionality of Obamacare's contraceptive mandate, affirmative action, and certain immigration policies imposed by the former president.
The Reagan appointee was in the majority in all 10 cases decided by a single vote in the court's 2014-15 term. Cruz said conservatives could face "a major shift in the court if there is another vacancy" on the bench during President Trump's first term.
"If that happens, as much as the Left is crazy now, they will go full Armageddon meltdown because the next vacancy is where we'll have the ability to act and restore basic Constitution protections," Cruz has previously said.
Cruz praised Gorsuch as a "vigorous questioner" during his remarks Friday, describing the newest justice's style of questioning as one that has left "liberal reporters clutching their pearls." Gorsuch was confirmed to the court by the Senate on a 54-45 vote in mid-April.